Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and the third leading cause of death from cancer in women in Canada,
but it doesn’t have to be.

Colorectal Cancer Risk

Colon cancer is curable in 90% of cases when detected early, and with appropriate screening, often entirely preventable (screening can find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before turning into cancer).

Those at average risk should start screening at age 50.

For information on seeking screening and treatment click here.

Or call the Canadian Cancer Society's Cancer Information Service toll-free: 1-888-939-3333

Click below for a map with province-specific information.

Get Screened

Colorectal Cancer Risk: Learn More 

2016

In Canada, in 2016, it was estimated that there were around 26,100 cases of colorectal cancer cases diagnosed (making up 13% of new cancer cases) and 9,300 deaths from colorectal cancer (making up 12% of all cancer deaths).

Age

Males and females with an average risk for colon cancer need to begin screening at age 50. People over age 75 should talk with their doctor to determine whether continued screening is right for them. Please click here for province-specific information.

Colorectal cancer rates are increasing in those under 50 in Canada.

Ethnicity

While colorectal cancer rates for the aboriginal population used to be lower than that of the general population, they are now approaching the incidence rate of the non-aboriginal population.

Family History

Those individuals with risk factors such as family history need to talk to their doctors about whether they should start screening at an earlier age.

Symptoms

Often polyps and early colon cancers do not cause symptoms. That's why it's important to get tested even if you feel fine. If you have symptoms, they can include: rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits that lasts more than a few days, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, or unexplained fatigue or weight loss. Go see your physician if you have any of the symptoms mentioned.

Colorectal Screening Guidelines

It's important to check for colorectal cancer through screening even if you don't have any symptoms. The earlier colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the more successfully it can be treated. If you are between the ages of 50-74, it's essential to have a test every two years that checks for blood in the stool.

The two types of stool tests used in Canada are:

  • gFOBT (guaiac-based fecal occult blood test) is the original stool test that uses a chemical reaction on a paper card to find blood in the stool from adenomatous polyps or tumours.
  • FIT (fecal immunochemical test) looks for specific proteins made by the immune system. This is the most common screening program in Canada.

If you have a positive stool test, then you have to follow up with a colonoscopy, or you can discuss options of barium enema and flexible sigmoidoscopy with your doctor.

You can also call the Canadian Cancer Society's Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-888-939-3333 for information about colorectal cancer and screening programs.

While we’ve made great progress in increasing the screening rates and decreasing the death rate for colorectal cancer, we still have a long way to go.

Other Colorectal Cancer
Background Information

  • As of 2016, all 10 provinces had implemented or are in the process of implementing organized colorectal cancer screening programs. It's reported that none of the programs meet their target of 60%.
  • Lifestyle factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, type II diabetes, obesity, smoking and severe alcoholic consumption all increase risk.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence is highest for males and females in Newfoundland and Labrador. The second highest rates for females were observed in Nova Scotia. The second highest rates for males were in Manitoba.

Colorectal Cancer — Age and Family History

  • Colorectal cancer diagnoses are declining among adults age 50 and older, but are increasing in those younger than age 50.
  • People of all ages should talk to their doctor about colon cancer to rule out a family history of the disease or to discuss any symptoms, such as blood in the stool or a persistent change in bowel habits.
  • Hereditary cancer syndromes, such as FAP (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) or HNPCC (Lynch syndrome) account for a small percentage of colorectal cancers. These individuals have a very high risk of developing cancer and at a much younger age. For this reason, they require special monitoring and treatment.

Colorectal Cancer Trends

  • From 2003 to 2012, death rates from colorectal cancer have been declining for males and females.
  • More men than women are diagnosed and die from colorectal cancer. About 1 in 14 Canadian men is expected to develop colorectal cancer, and 1 in 29 men will die from it.
  • Regarding women, about 1 in 16 Canadian women are expected to develop colorectal cancer and 1 in 32 will die from it.

General Health Guidance

No matter what age you are, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet (low in red and processed meats), an active lifestyle and a healthy body weight. And of course, don’t smoke, and if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.

But no matter how healthy your lifestyle it’s still essential to talk with your doctor, select a test and get screened!