Colorectal cancer is a significant health problem, the importance of which will increase substantially in the coming years, both in more, as well as in less developed regions of the world. The present paper describes the dimensions of the problem from an epidemiologic viewpoint as well as from the perspective of policy makers and professionals seeking to control the disease. Currently, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with 1.2 million estimated cases and 609,000 estimated deaths in 2008. Based on demographic trends, the annual incidence is expected to increase by nearly 80% to 2.2 million cases over the next two decades and most of this increase will occur in the less developed regions of the world (62%). These regions are ill equipped to deal with the rapidly increasing demand for cancer treatment resulting from population growth and higher life expectancy. Concerted efforts to control colorectal cancer are therefore of great importance worldwide. They will require allocation of additional resources and should be based on an appropriate balance between prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
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