It is now recognised that a part of the inherited risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) can be explained by the co-inheritance of low-penetrance genetic variants. The accumulated experience to date in identifying these variants has served to highlight difficulties in conducting statistically and methodologically rigorous studies and follow-up analyses. The COGENT (COlorectal cancer GENeTics) consortium includes 20 research groups in Europe, Australia, the Americas, China and Japan. The overarching goal of COGENT is to identify and characterise low-penetrance susceptibility variants for CRC through association-based analyses. In this study, we review the rationale for identifying low-penetrance variants for CRC and our proposed strategy for establishing COGENT.