Experimental and epidemiological studies indicate a strong link between chronic inflammation and tumor progression. Human colorectal cancer (CRC), a major cause of cancer-related death in Western countries, represents a paradigm for this link. Key features of cancer-related inflammation in CRC are the activation of transcription factors (e.g. NF-κB, STAT3), the expression of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines (e.g. TNFα, IL-6, CCL2, CXCL8) as well as a prominent leukocyte infiltrate. While considerable evidence indicates that the presence of lymphocytes of adaptive immunity may positively influence patient survival and clinical outcome in CRC, the role of tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) and of other lymphoid populations (e.g. Th17, Treg) is still unclear. In this review we will summarize the different and controversial effects that TAM play in CRC-related inflammation and progression of disease. The characterization of the most relevant inflammatory pathways in CRC is instrumental for the identification of new target molecules that could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment.