It is difficult to write about the epidemiology of rectal cancer alone, to the exclusion of colon cancer, because the epidemiological data often refers to the large bowel entirely and is not separated for the two anatomical subsites [1, 2]. Consequently, in this chapter, the two cancers will be considered together. When the data is available, the rectum will be considered distinct from colon.
Although less frequent than colon cancer, rectal cancer seems to have many similar features to colon cancer in terms of geographic distribution . However, some human and animal data on risk factors suggest the data cannot always be treated in the same way. Differences in some colon and rectal cancer risk factors reflect different patterns of genesis and development of rectal cancers with respect to the colon. Some modifiable risk factors that seem to be strongly associated with colon cancer are more weakly related to rectal cancer . Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a serious global problem and a major public health issue. Moreover, worldwide, a great increase in social and economic burden is anticipated by changing demographics and the ageing of the population.
Assessment of the magnitude of cancer burden provides the necessary evidence for priority setting, programme planning responsive to needs, policy development within a country and an effective allocation of resources. An integrated approach that combines primary prevention, screening and treatment options represents a remarkable opportunity for public health to reduce the burden of this cancer worldwide.
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