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Colorectal Cancer Deaths



Why do we measure colorectal cancer deaths?

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer death.(1) Although it is one of the most preventable cancers if screened appropriately, it generally shows no symptoms in early stages, and 60% to 70% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage in populations that were not screened.(2,3)

Colorectal cancer develops first as polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that can become cancerous if not identified early via a colonoscopy and removed.(4) Risk factors for colorectal cancer include increasing age, family history of the disease, eating red meat, tobacco and alcohol use, physical inactivity, and obesity.(5-7) Colorectal cancer is more common in men and the Black population.(7) Colorectal screening should begin at age 50 for men and women who are at average risk, according to the American Cancer Society.(8) For those who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. (9)

How do we measure colorectal cancer deaths?

This metric includes residents who have died due to colorectal cancer.

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

Because colorectal cancer is highly preventable, measuring deaths helps us understand the success of screening and intervention practices in a population.  

Colorectal cancer deaths have declined over the years as early detection has improved, so it may be more meaningful to monitor the prevalence of colorectal cancer rather than the number of deaths.


Colorectal cancer deaths are calculated by the following formula:

colorectal cancer deaths formula

This metric is age-adjusted and incorporates population weights. This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from Multiple Cause of Death Data from National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). 

Users of these data are asked to acknowledge NCHS and the vital statistics jurisdictions as the data source in published reports and studies for which the files were used. NCHS and the vital statistics jurisdictions should also be cited in reports, articles, and news releases in electronic and print media describing the studies or results of the studies. Following is the recommended citation:

National Center for Health Statistics. [Name of data file(s)] ([year(s]), as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program.

Colorectal cancer deaths are identified by the International Disease Classification codes (version 10) that classify the underlying cause of death. This metric uses the C19-C20, C180-189 codes. 

Years of Collection

For total population, calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 1 year estimate

For all specific demogroups, including racial/ethnic subgroups and gender subgroups, calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 3 year estimate


  1. Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Statistics. Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Accessed January 12, 2018, https://www.ccalliance.org/get-information/what-is-colon-cancer/statistics/

  2. Lieberman D, Ladabaum U, Cruz-Correa M, et al. Screening for Colorectal Cancer and Evolving Issues for Physicians and Patients: A Review. Jama. Nov 22 2016;316(20):2135-2145. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.17418

  3. Maida M, Macaluso FS, Ianiro G, et al. Screening of colorectal cancer: present and future. Expert review of anticancer therapy. Oct 26 2017:1-16. doi:10.1080/14737140.2017.1392243

  4. Colorectal Cancer Alliance. What is Colorectal Cancer. Colorectal Cancer Alliance Accessed January 12, 2018, https://www.ccalliance.org/get-information/what-is-colon-cancer/

  5. Stracci F, Zorzi M, Grazzini G. Colorectal cancer screening: tests, strategies, and perspectives. Frontiers in public health. 2014;2:210. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00210

  6. Augustus GJ, Ellis NA. Race in Cancer Health Disparities Theme Issue Colorectal Cancer Disparity in African Americans: Risk Factors and Carcinogenic Mechanisms. The American journal of pathology. Nov 08 2017;doi:10.1016/j.ajpath.2017.07.023

  7. Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors. Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Accessed January 12, 2018, https://www.ccalliance.org/get-information/what-is-colon-cancer/risk-factors/

  8. Rex DK, Boland CR, Dominitz JA, et al. Colorectal Cancer Screening: Recommendations for Physicians and Patients From the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterology. Jul 2017;153(1):307-323. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.013

  9. American Cancer Society. Treating Colorectal Cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed January 12, 2018, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/treating.html

Last updated: February 20, 2024