Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a common health problem, representing the third most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide and causing a significant burden in terms of morbidity and mortality, with annual deaths estimated at 700000. The western way of life, that is being rapidly adopted in many regions of the world, is a well discussed risk factor for CRC and could be targeted in terms of primary prevention. Furthermore, the relatively slow development of this cancer permits drastic reduction of incidence and mortality through secondary prevention. These facts underlie primary care physicians (PCPs) being assigned a key role in health strategies that enhance prevention and prompt diagnosis. Herein, we review the main topics of CRC in the current literature, in order to better understand its pathogenesis, risk and protective factors, as well as screening techniques. Furthermore, we discuss preventive and screening policies to combat CRC and the crucial role served by PCPs in their successful implementation. Relevant articles were identified through electronic searches of MEDLINE and through manual searches of reference lists.