Rectal Cancer in Asian vs. Western Countries: Why the Variation in Incidence?

  • Yanhong DengEmail author
Lower Gastrointestinal Cancers (AB Benson, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Lower Gastrointestinal Cancers

Opinion statement

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer worldwide. CRC has been thought to be less common in Asia compared to Western countries. However, the incidence rates of CRC in Asia are high and there is an increasing trend in the Asian population. Furthermore, colorectal cancer accounts for the greatest number of all incidences of CRC in Asia. The increasing adoption of a Western lifestyle, particularly in dietary habits, is likely the most important factor contributing to the rapid increase in colon cancer incidence; it is noteworthy that trends for rectal cancer were flat. The etiology of colon and rectal cancer is a bit different. The risks of distal colon and rectal cancers are more likely to be related to environmental factors, such as polluted surface water sources, alcohol consumption, and habitual smoking. The lack of great change in the incidence of rectal cancer might be due to weaker associations with such lifestyle factors. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that proximal and distal sections of the colon and rectum are two different organs in terms of function and genetic background. It may mean differences in differential sensitivities and exposures to carcinogens. However, despite the decrease in whole incidence, the CRC incidence in young adults in Western countries are reversely increasing, especially in rectal cancer, due to reasons largely unknown. Although the treatment algorithm is different between Asia and western countries, globally, the survival rate for patients with rectal cancer has risen during the past 10 years. Screening contributes a great deal to reducing the incidence and improving survival. Most countries in Asia, such as China, need nationwide registration and screening systems to provide better data.


Rectal cancer Asia incidence Incidence trend Risk factors Etiology difference Treatment algorithm 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Yanhong Deng declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Oncology, Guangdong Institute of Gastroenterology, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Colorectal and Pelvic Floor Disease, Supported by National Key Clinical DisciplineThe Sixth Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University GuangzhouChina

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