Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly form of cancer in the United States, second only to lung cancer. In fact, 1 in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime. However, even with such grim numbers, this cancer does not have to be as deadly as it has been historically. Continue reading for general information, statistics, and online resources that may help you beat the odds against this disease.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in either the colon or rectum. It occurs mostly in people age 50 or older, and risk of a diagnosis increases with age. As the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, it is also the third most common cancer in both men and women. According to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group, in 2012 (the most recent year colorectal cancer statistics are available), 134,784 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Of those, 70,204 were men and 64,580 were women. In all, 1,168,929 people were estimated to be living with colorectal cancer in 2012.
Although the numbers for 2012 might seem bleak, the CDC reports that the incidence rate of colorectal cancer in men decreased 3.6% per year from 2002 to 2011; it decreased by 3.2% for women during the same period. Mortality has also trended downward, with a 2.9% decrease in women per year from 2002 to 2011; mortality decreased by 3.1% for men during the same period. The Cancer Statistics Center at American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 134,390 new colorectal cancer diagnoses in 2016, which means 294 fewer people will have to fight this disease than in 2012. That might seem like a small improvement, but every life spared from a cancer diagnosis is worth celebrating, and with continued advocacy for screening and treatment, the numbers will continue to decline.
While we know colorectal cancer affects men and women, and individuals age 50 or older are at an increased risk for the disease, one of the primary risk factors for colorectal cancer is a family history of the disease. WebMD reports that, "The 2 most common inherited colorectal cancer syndromes are hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)." These syndromes can affect either gender and are inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.
Travis H. Bray, PhD, and his wife, Shawnie Bray, are all too familiar with hereditary colorectal cancer. As the founders of the Hereditary Colon Cancer Foundation, they have personal experience with the disease. As Travis recounts, "Familial Adenomatous Polyposis started in my family with my paternal grandfather who, at age 36, was diagnosed with both F.A.P and terminal colon cancer. He was informed that he had six months to live and that three of his six children likely carried the same disease. His doctor was correct on all accounts." By the age of 15, Travis had undergone a total colectomy. The biographies he and his wife, Shawnie, share are inspirational because through everything, they have continued to live happy, productive lives, supporting each other each step of the way. Their foundation website, www.hcctakesguts.org, provides a wealth of resources for patients, families, and medical practitioners.
Colorectal cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of Americans each year. But the decline in incidences and mortality continues to improve year to year. There are numerous organizations, websites, and outreach groups to help anyone who is affected with this disease. And through proper screening and genetic testing, you can arm yourself and your loved ones with invaluable knowledge to win the fight against colorectal cancer. For information on genetic testing for hereditary cancers,