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Colon and rectum cancer

Cancer in the colon and rectum are clinically usually considered as one entity. There are genetic grounds indications that right-sided and left-sided colon and rectum cancer can have different pathogeneses and appear to have different responses to treatment.

About 98% of all cancer tumors in the colon/rectum are adenocarcinomas. The rest are spinocellular carcinomas, carcinoids, lymphomas, and sarcomas. The tumors are often localized in the ascending colon, sigmoid and rectum, and rarely in the middle part of the colon.

In the embryo, the rectum grows from the abdomen into the pelvis. During this development the surrounding intestine and fat tissue (mesorectum) also "pull down" the covering fascias found in the abdomen. These fascia layers are very important for the dissection plane in localized rectal cancer.

Colon and rectum - Essential facts


Compared to other cancers, colorectal cancer is fairly common and represents 8.0% of all new cancer cases in the United States. Colorectal cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people aged 65-74 and is more common in men than women.

The incidence of both colon and rectum cancer has increased in the past 40 years for both sexes. The incidence varies strongly between industrialized and underdeveloped countries. Changes over time and geographic variations indicate there are environmental risk factors. It is expected that there will be a substantial increase in these cancers in the near future.

 In 2017, it is estimated to be 135,430 new cases of colon and rectum cancer (18).


Age-specific incidence of cancer in colon and rectum cancer, 2010–2014.

Source: National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, USA



Incidence of cancer in colon, 1975–2014.

Source: National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, USA

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