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Colorectal cancer: Screening still comes too late

Its incidence rate of colorectal cancer is particularly high in the United States, in certain South American countries, in Europe, in Australia and New Zealand, and more recently in Japan. In general, epidemiological studies reveal that socioeconomic status is an important prognostic factor for colorectal cancers, and that there is inequality between low income patients and those with higher incomes. A difference in exposure to risk factors (especially food), for example, could explain this inequality. In addition, low incomes, a low level of education, and insufficient health coverage would limit access to appropriate preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care for the less-favored patients. However, the main factor affecting survival at the time of diagnosis is the stage of the tumor.


Colorectal cancer is the third most widespread cancer in the world and the second for the most cancer-related deaths2.


Every year, nearly 930,0001 people die from colorectal cancer worldwide.


There were nearly 1.91 million new cases of colorectal cancer around the world in 2020.

A progressive tumor

Colorectal cancer develops from a cell in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. This cell multiplies uncontrollably and gradually changes into a tumor, also known as a polyp. Polyps are growths that form in the inner wall of the colon, in the mucous membrane. The risk of a polyp turning into cancer varies, depending on the size of the benign tumor and type of cells.

Photo of a colorectal cancer patient

A silent cancer

The absence of symptoms is common. Colorectal cancer can therefore develop silently and can remain undiagnosed for a while. This is why screening is necessary. Nevertheless, some signs may point to the need for consultation with your physicial (see below).

Age: main risk factor

Most of colorectal cancers occur in people over 50 years of age2. While some factors are genetic, others are preventable with a change of lifestyle. Regular exercise and a diet rich in fiber and fruits and vegetables are beneficial. Conversely, the risk of colorectal cancer is increased by a diet rich in red meat and cured meats, excess weight or obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking2.

Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) are also risk factors for colorectal cancer3.

Recognizing the signs

Illustrated infographic presenting the signs of colorectal cancer – Source: APHP – consulted in February 2024

Different types of therapeutic approaches

Different types of treatments can be prescribed for colorectal cancer, depending on the stage of the disease and the general condition of the patient. These include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. Depending on the case, a single treatment or a combination may be prescribed. These treatments can have different objectives depending on the stage of the disease: to remove the tumor through surgery, to use radiotherapy to stop it from spreading, or to improve the patient’s quality of life by minimizing their symptoms.

Photo of a colorectal cancer patient



  1. Get tested: Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest killers, and it develops silently. However, early detection and treatment can improve prognosis.
  2. Change your lifestyle: Many cases could be prevented by reducing the consumption of red meat, alcohol, and tobacco, and avoiding excess weight or obesity.
  3. Stay informed: Being well informed about this disease and its manifestations can help prevent its occurrence. It can also help patients live well with the disease and better understand this cancer.

[1] Globocan, 2022
[2] WHO
[3] Inserm, 2020