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Colorectal cancer: screening too late

Colorectal cancer is a common disease. It is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in the world: it ranks third, behind lung cancer and liver cancer, and it affects almost as many women as men (1).

Around the world, three new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed every minute, with great variability in its distribution among countries. The rate of incidence 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 high incomes. A difference in exposure to risk factors (especially food) could explain this inequality. In addition, low incomes, a low level of education, and insufficient health cover would limit access to appropriate preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care for the less-favored patients. However, the stage of the tumor at the time of diagnosis is the main factor in survival.

With early screening and management, colorectal cancer is cured in 90% of cases (1).


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world and the second most deadly (1).


very year, nearly 935,000 people die from colorectal cancer worldwide(1).


Globally, nearly 1.93 million new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year(1).

A progressively changing tumor

A silent cancer

The absence of symptoms is common. Colorectal cancer can therefore develop silently and can remain undiagnosed for a while. Hence the need for screening. Nevertheless, certain signs may point to the need for consultation with your GP.

Photo of a colorectal cancer patient

Age: main risk factor

94% of colorectal cancers occur in people over 50 years of age. The average age of people at the time of diagnosis is 70 years old. While some factors are genetic, related to heredity, others are preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity and a diet rich in fiber and fruits and vegetables are beneficial. Conversely, the risks of colorectal cancer are increased by a diet rich in red meat and cured meats, excess weight or obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking.

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

Different types of therapeutic approaches

Different types of treatments can be used to treat colorectal cancer, depending on the stage of the disease and the general condition of the patient: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. These treatments can have different objectives depending on the stage of the disease: to cure the cancer – that is, by destroying all the cancer cells – or to prevent the cancer from spreading or to improve the quality of life of the patient by reducing the symptoms. Depending on the case, only one treatment or a combination of treatments may be prescribed (surgery plus chemotherapy, for example).

Recognizing the signs

Infographic of colorectal cancer symptoms


  1. Get tested: Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest killers, and it develops silently. However, early detection and management can cure it in 90% of cases.
  2. Adapt your lifestyle: Many cases are preventable by reducing the consumption of red meat, alcohol, and tobacco, and avoiding overweight or obesity.
  3. Be informed: Being well informed about this disease and its manifestations can help prevent its occurrence, and can help patients live better with the disease and understand this cancer better.
Photo of a colorectal cancer patient


For several years, Servier devotes more than 50% of its global R&D budget to the research for new therapeutic solutions against cancer.
Improving the care of patients with cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, is at the heart of Servier’s mission. To this end, the Group contributes to:
– developing models to better understand the mechanisms involved in the development of the disease and resistance to treatment;
– developing tools to improve the choice of the most appropriate treatment for each patient;
– evaluating different combinations of treatments to optimize patient care;
– creating less invasive methods of analysis and follow-up for patients;
– taking into account patient perspectives and quality of life when developing investigational medicinal products;
– support patients and their relatives in their journey against the disease.


(1) World Health Organization