African Americans have higher colorectal cancer (CRC) morbidity and mortality than whites, yet have low rates of CRC screening. Few studies have explored African Americans' own perceptions of barriers to CRC screening or elucidated gender differences in screening status. Focus groups were conducted with 23 African American patients between 50 and 70 years of age who were patients in a general internal medicine clinic in a large urban teaching hospital. Focus groups were delimited by gender and CRC screening status. Focus group transcripts were analyzed using an iterative coding process with consensus and triangulation to develop thematic categories. Results indicated key thematic differences in perceptions of screening by gender and CRC screening status. While both men and women who had never been screened had a general lack of knowledge about CRC and screening modalities, women had an overall sense that health screenings were needed and indicated a stronger need to have a positive relationship with their doctor. Women also reported that African American men do not get colonoscopy because of the perceived sexual connotation. Men who had never been screened, compared to those who had been screened, had less trust of their doctors and the health care system and indicated an overall fear of going to the doctor. They also reiterated the sexual connotation of having a colonoscopy and were apprehensive about being sedated during the procedure. Overall, men expressed more fear and were more reluctant to undergo CRC screening than women, but among those who had undergone CRC screening, particularly colonoscopy, men expressed advantages of having the screening. All groups were also found to have a negative attitude about the use of fecal occult blood testing and felt colonoscopy was the superior screening modality. Results suggest that messages and education about CRC screening, particularly colonoscopy, might place more emphasis on accuracy and might be more effective in increasing screening rates among African Americans if tailored to gender and screening status.