Colorectal cancer is the second most common fatal cancer in the UK, with over 20,000 deaths a year; the average risk of dying from it is one in 50. The exceeding high rates of bowel cancer in Scotland in the 1950s have dropped, probably as a result of dietary changes.
In 1997 colon-rectal cancer was the third most common cancer in the USA. It presents the highest cancer risk for non-smokers (smokers' risk of lung cancer is higher). It strikes up to 150,000 Americans a year and kills more than 50,000, the vast majority over the age of 50. The American Cancer Society projects that more than 135,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease in 2001. A genetic mutation associated with colon cancer is twice as common in Jews as in non-Jews, making the risk of colon cancer 1 in 17 for American Ashkenazi Jews.
Diets low in fibre and high in fat raise the chance of an individual developing colon cancer.