Colon Cancer in 2017:

Although in decline, it remains a killer of Americans as they age




March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. While we are encouraged by recent statistics that show progress in the fight against this disease, there is evidence that colon cancer remains a serious threat to Americans as they age. 

The incidence of colon cancer in the United States has declined steadily since the mid-1990s, according to data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). A recent report from the American Cancer Society states that colon cancer incidence among men and women declined by 3 percent every year between 2004 and 2013. Colonoscopies, which are recommended for people after the age of 50, are widely regarded as playing a key role in this positive trend. The procedure detects polyps at their earliest stage, which is crucial for survival. The five-year survival rate for colon cancer patients diagnosed while the disease was localized (in stage 1) is 90.1 percent.



Source: National Cancer Institute


  • According to the NCI, colon cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer among Americans, representing 8 percent of new cancer cases in 2016.

  • The NCI estimated there would be over 134,000 new cases of colon cancer in 2016 and more than 49,000 deaths in the year.

  • The American Cancer Society’s report identified colon cancer as the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths of American women and as the second leading cancer-related cause of death among men.

  • More than 50,000 deaths from colon cancer are predicted for 2017.

  • The five-year survival rate between 2006 and 2012 was 65 percent.




Despite the progress overall, colon cancer is a leading cause of death among older Americans.

Source: National Cancer Institute
  • NCI statistics for the period 2009 to 2013 show that colon cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people between 65 and 74.

  • The median age of people at the time of diagnosis is 68.

  • The median age of people at the time of death from colon cancer is 73.

Ronald Evans, PhD, Salk Institute Reuben Shaw, PhD, Salk Institute

The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation has had a longtime presence in research seeking less toxic treatments for colon cancer patients. Our investment in this area of scientific investigation has been approximately $3 million in the past ten years alone, supporting the collaborative work of leading cancer scientists including Ronald Evans, Ph.D., of Salk Institute, and Reuben Shaw, PhD, Director of the Salk Institute Cancer Center, who have studied the roles of molecular mechanisms and diet-induced inflammation in intestinal cancer.

Our colon cancer brain trust will undoubtedly benefit from the new SWCRF Partnership for Aging & Cancer Research, which will delve deeper into the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to increased incidence of cancers as people age. This initiative will hone in on these causal factors with a goal of developing targeted patient therapies that will someday make cancer a chronic, manageable disease.


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