Starting from a survey of the studies on familiar aggregation of colorectal cancer, we introduce the aims of genetic epidemiology. One of its main goals is to assess population frequency of cancer susceptibility genes and to determine the age-specific risks for carriers with respect to non-carriers. In section two, segregation analysis investigations are reviewed, and inferences on the relevance of genetic components of susceptibility to colorectal cancer are drawn. In section three, the HNPCC paradigm is discussed in the light of the Knudson model of tumorigenesis and recent advances of molecular research. In the last section we show an example of genotype/environment interaction in the etiology of a particular cancer and present a conceptual framework for studies on cancer genetic epidemiology in terms of attributable and relative risk.