Colitis-associated colorectal cancer (CA-CRC) is the cause of death in 10%-15% of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. CA-CRC results from the accumulation of mutations in intestinal epithelial cells and progresses through a well-characterized inflammation to dysplasia to carcinoma sequence. Quantitative estimates of overall CA-CRC risks are highly variable ranging from 2% to 40% depending on IBD severity, duration and location, with IBD duration being the most significant risk factor associated with CA-CRC development. Recently, studies have identified IBD patients with similar patterns of colonic inflammation, but that differ with respect to CA-CRC development, suggesting a role for additional non-inflammatory risk factors in CA-CRC development. One suggestion is that select IBD patients carry polymorphisms in various low penetrance disease susceptibility genes, which pre-dispose them to CA-CRC development, although these loci have proven difficult to identify in human genome-wide association studies. Mouse models of CA-CRC have provided a viable alternative for the discovery, validation and study of individual genes in CA-CRC pathology. In this review, we summarize the current CA-CRC literature with a strong focus on genetic pre-disposition and highlight an emerging role for mouse models in the search for CA-CRC risk alleles.