This review presents a comprehensive, evenhanded evaluation of the evidence from experimental, in vitro and human studies associating environmental and therapeutic factors with risk of colorectal cancer. Life styles correlated with the greatest increase in colorectal cancer risk are the ones that typify a diet rich in fat and calories, alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking, and low intake of vegetable, fruits and fibers, referred to as a "western diet," as well as sedentary style (i.e., no- or low-exercise). This kind of life style has also been associated with other chronic diseases (other cancers, obesity, dyslipedemia, diabetes, hypertension cardiovascular, and hypertension). The evidence does not implicated red meat as a risk factor, and fiber has been shown to protect against colorectal adenomas and carcinomas. Calcium, vitamin D, folate, and some antioxidant vitamins and minerals (gamma-tocopherol and selenium) have protective effects, and daily exercise for > or =30 min results in a significant decrease in risk. Estrogen use (hormone replacement therapy) substantially reduces colorectal cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., aspirin) in excessive doses is protective, especially in high risk populations, but the side effects of its use and cost incurred due to its continued intake over long periods must be carefully scrutinized before any recommendations are made for the general public.