Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal adenomas have an increased risk for colorectal cancer. When no hereditary syndrome is evident, screening is based on empiric risk estimates. The risk is greatest for individuals with specific inherited cancer-predisposing disorders. When conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer are diagnosed, specific neoplasm risk estimates can usually be performed based on advances in molecular genetics. These estimates lead to more straightforward and cost-effective approaches to surveillance and management. The National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network (NCCN) and other groups have provided detailed guidelines for evaluating patients based on recognition of clinical syndrome characteristics, followed by appropriate genetic counseling, genetic testing, and optimal surveillance. The NCCN guidelines are used as a frame of reference for this discussion of selected recent advances in human cancer genetics as they apply to clinical practice.