Colorectal cancer is a major cause of cancer mortality in the United States, and certain risk factors have been identified. Random samples (N = 893) of residents between 40 and 74 years old in two areas (ie, Long Island, New York and the state of Connecticut) with relatively high rates of colorectal cancer were surveyed by telephone in 1988. Prevalence of certain risk factors for colorectal cancer was estimated, including family history of colorectal cancer and personal history of "ulcerative colitis" and "polyps." Knowledge of dietary risk factors for cancer (ie, cured meat and low fiber intake), daily use of fiber cereals, and frequency of medical checkups did not differ significantly among those in higher-risk groups v other respondents. In multivariate analyses a family history of colorectal cancer was a significant independent predictor of knowledge of the frequency of colorectal cancer relative to stomach cancer, and of ever having heard of a fecal occult blood test, but not of having had an occult blood test or procto(sigmoido)scopy. Persons reporting a history of "ulcerative colitis" had a lower assessment of the curability of colorectal cancer, and the frequency of recent procto(sigmoido)scopic examination was not increased. Findings are discussed with reference to potential educational programs in the primary and secondary prevention of colorectal cancer.