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Of 160 patients who died of colorectal cancer in the Exeter district in 1979 and 1980, 15 had not been correctly certified as such and of these 10 had died postoperatively. A further 2 had not died of colorectal cancer and in 9 the diagnosis was unsubstantiated. When those not proven to have cancer are considered, colorectal cancer as a cause of death was underestimated by about 5%, which is much more accurate than for other diseases. A total of 35 patients (21.8%) had no operative treatment due to advanced disease, old age or rapid death. The mean inpatient stay was 32.3 days, and 184 operations were performed on 125 patients. Only 20 patients were admitted to the district hospital for terminal care.