This review gives a comprehensive overview of cancer development and links it to the current understanding of tumorigenesis and malignant progression in colorectal cancer. The focus is on human and murine colorectal carcinogenesis and the histogenesis of this malignant disorder. A summary of a model of colitis-associated colon tumorigenesis (an AOM/DSS model) will also be presented. The earliest phases of colorectal oncogenesis occur in the normal mucosa, with a disorder of cell replication. The large majority of colorectal malignancies develop from an adenomatous polyp (adenoma). These can be defined as well-demarcated masses of epithelial dysplasia, with uncontrolled crypt cell proliferation. When neoplastic cells pass through the muscularis mucosa and infiltrate the submucosa, they are malignant. Carcinomas usually originate from pre-existing adenomas, but this does not imply that all polyps undergo malignant changes and does not exclude de novo oncogenesis. Besides adenomas, there are other types of pre-neoplasia, which include hyperplastic polyps, serrated adenomas, flat adenomas and dysplasia that occurs in the inflamed colon in associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Colorectal neoplasms cover a wide range of pre-malignant and malignant lesions, many of which can easily be removed during endoscopy if they are small. Colorectal neoplasms and/or pre-neoplasms can be prevented by interfering with the various steps of oncogenesis, which begins with uncontrolled epithelial cell replication, continues with the formation of adenomas and eventually evolves into malignancy. The knowledge described herein will help to reduce and prevent this malignancy, which is one of the most frequent neoplasms in some Western and developed countries.