Previous studies have documented significant international variations in colorectal cancer rates. However, these studies were limited because they were based on old data or examined only incidence or mortality data. In this article, the colorectal cancer burden and patterns worldwide are described using the most recently updated cancer incidence and mortality data available from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The authors provide 5-year (1998-2002), age-standardized colorectal cancer incidence rates for select cancer registries in IARC's Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, and trends in age-standardized death rates by single calendar year for select countries in the World Health Organization mortality database. In addition, available information regarding worldwide colorectal cancer screening initiatives are presented. The highest colorectal cancer incidence rates in 1998-2002 were observed in registries from North America, Oceania, and Europe, including Eastern European countries. These high rates are most likely the result of increases in risk factors associated with "Westernization," such as obesity and physical inactivity. In contrast, the lowest colorectal cancer incidence rates were observed from registries in Asia, Africa, and South America. Colorectal cancer mortality rates have declined in many longstanding as well as newly economically developed countries; however, they continue to increase in some low-resource countries of South America and Eastern Europe. Various screening options for colorectal cancer are available and further international consideration of targeted screening programs and/or recommendations could help alleviate the burden of colorectal cancer worldwide.