More than 1·2 million patients are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year, and more than 600,000 die from the disease. Incidence strongly varies globally and is closely linked to elements of a so-called western lifestyle. Incidence is higher in men than women and strongly increases with age; median age at diagnosis is about 70 years in developed countries. Despite strong hereditary components, most cases of colorectal cancer are sporadic and develop slowly over several years through the adenoma-carcinoma sequence. The cornerstones of therapy are surgery, neoadjuvant radiotherapy (for patients with rectal cancer), and adjuvant chemotherapy (for patients with stage III/IV and high-risk stage II colon cancer). 5-year relative survival ranges from greater than 90% in patients with stage I disease to slightly greater than 10% in patients with stage IV disease. Screening has been shown to reduce colorectal cancer incidence and mortality, but organised screening programmes are still to be implemented in most countries.
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