In France, free faecal occult blood testing is offered to individuals aged between 50 and 74 years every 2 years as a method of screening for colorectal cancer (CRC). To assess how a proposed organized programme of CRC screening would be perceived among a representative sample of individuals living in France, aged between 40 and 75 years, and by a representative sample of general practitioners, two nationwide observational telephone surveys were carried out in 2005 (EDIFICE 1; 1601 individuals) and 2008 (EDIFICE 2; 1801 individuals). In 2008, 38% of individuals aged between 50 and 74 years reported undergoing screening for CRC; this corresponded to a statistically significant 13% increase in CRC screening rate compared with 2005 (P = 0.01). When asked whether it was possible to screen for CRC, 94% of individuals who had undergone screening (N = 350) responded positively compared with 87% of individuals who had not been screened. The main reason for individuals not to undergo screening was a lack of awareness (35% of men and 37% of women, P = not significant); the second reason was lack of advice and referral from their general practitioner (21% of women versus 15% of men, P = 0.03). The French population is aware of the potential benefit of CRC screening; however, many do not undergo regular screening. It is therefore important to identify the hurdles associated with CRC screening.