Colorectal cancer in Canada

Colorectal cancer develops in the cell lining of the colon and rectum. Cells may form benign (non-cancerous) growths called polyps. Over a period of years, a series of DNA mutations can occur, leading polyps to become malignant (cancerous).

The data

  • Colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in Canada
  • 1 in 13 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime
  • 1 in 16 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime
  • About 26,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017
  • 94% of colorectal cancers occur in adults aged 50+

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Diet high in processed meat, or red meat
  • Family history
  • Colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Screening and detection

  • 39% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed early in their development, at stage I and II*
  • 64% of Canadians diagnosed with colorectal cancer survive 5 or more years

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Organization: Public Health Agency of Canada

Date published: June, 2017

If you are between ages 50 and 74, speak to your doctor about screening or contact your provincial colorectal cancer screening program. Regular screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for average-risk adults aged 50 to 74. Screening guidelines are available from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care.


For more facts about colorectal cancer visit:

Our Data Blog or and Search: colorectal cancer

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Data Sources: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017; Statistics Canada, Canadian Cancer Registry CANSIM Table 103-0554; Canadian Partnership Against Cancer - 2017 Cancer System Performance Report.


* Cancer stage distribution is based on eight provinces and does not include Quebec or Ontario.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Health, 2017 | Cat.: HP35-83/2-2017E-PDF | ISBN: 978-0-660-08547-0 | Pub.: 170070

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