Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a dominantly inherited cancer-predisposition syndrome with an incidence of between 1:17,000 and 1:5,000. The condition has been causally linked to mutation of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene located at 5q21. Virtually all mutations in the APC gene are truncating mutations, resulting in loss of function of the APC protein. Spontaneous germline mutation of this gene occurs frequently and accounts for the high incidence of FAP. The gene is somatically mutated at an early point in the colorectal adenoma-carcinoma progression. Somatic mutations of the APC gene are also frequently observed in a variety of other human carcinomas. Isolation of the APC gene has led to the recognition of genotype-phenotype correlations and, together with protein studies, has helped to elucidate the structure and function of the APC protein. This report aims to take the reader from a clinical appreciation to a molecular understanding of FAP.