Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding segments of RNA which are involved in normal cellular development and proliferation. Recent studies have identified altered miRNA expression in both tumour tissues and circulation in the presence of colorectal cancer. These altered expression patterns may serve as novel biomarkers for colorectal cancer. This review explores recent developments in this rapidly evolving field.Methods: A thorough literature search was performed to identify studies describing miRNA expression in colorectal cancer. Specific areas of interest included miRNA expression patterns in relation to development, diagnosis, progression and recurrence of disease, and potential future therapeutic applications.Results: MiRNAs are associated with the development and progression of colorectal cancer. These may be either overexpressed or underexpressed (depending on the specific miRNA). Although there are fewer published studies regarding circulating miRNAs, these appear to be reflective of alterations in tissue expression and may have a potential role as minimally invasive biomarkers.Conclusion: MiRNAs have immense potential for refinement of the current processes for diagnosis, staging and prognostic prediction. They may also provide potential future therapeutic targets in the management of colorectal cancer. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.