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Hazard regression models and cure rate models can be advantageously used in cancer relative survival analysis. We explored the advantages and limits of these two models in colon cancer and focused on the prognostic impact of the year of diagnosis on survival according to the TNM stage at diagnosis. The analysis concerned 9,998 patients from three French registries. In the hazard regression model, the baseline excess death hazard and the time-dependent effects of covariates were modelled using regression splines. The cure rate model estimated the proportion of ‘cured’ patients and the excess death hazard in ‘non-cured’ patients. The effects of year of diagnosis on these parameters were estimated for each TNM cancer stage. With the hazard regression model, the excess death hazard decreased significantly with more recent years of diagnoses (hazard ratio, HR 0.97 in stage III and 0.98 in stage IV, P < 0.001). In these advanced stages, this favourable effect was limited to the first years of follow-up. With the cure rate model, recent years of diagnoses were significantly associated with longer survivals in ‘non-cured’ patients with advanced stages (HR 0.95 in stage III and 0.97 in stage IV, P < 0.001) but had no significant effect on cure (odds ratio, OR 0.99 in stages III and IV, P > 0.5). The two models were complementary and concordant in estimating colon cancer survival and the effects of covariates. They provided two different points of view of the same phenomenon: recent years of diagnosis had a favourable effect on survival, but not on cure.