Introduction: In many countries uptake of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening remains low. Aim: To assess how procedural characteristics of CRC screening programmes determine preferences for participation and how individuals weigh these against the perceived benefits from participation in CRC screening. Methods: A discrete choice experiment was conducted among subjects in the age group of 50-75 years, including both screening-naive subjects and participants of a CRC screening programme. Subjects were asked on their preferences for aspects of CRC screening programmes using scenarios based on pain, risk of complications, screening location, preparation, duration of procedure, screening interval and risk reduction of CRC-related death. Results: The response was 31% (156/500) for screening-naive and 57% (124/210) for CRC screening participants. All aspects proved to significantly influence the respondents' preferences. For both groups combined, respondents required an additional relative risk reduction of CRC-related death by a screening programme of 1% for every additional 10 min of duration, 5% in order to expose themselves to a small risk of complications, 10% to accept mild pain, 10% to undergo preparation with an enema, 12% to use 0.751 of oral preparation combined with 12 h fasting and 32% to use an extensive bowel preparation. Screening intervals shorter than 10 years were significantly preferred to a 10-year screening interval. Conclusion: This study shows that especially type of bowel preparation, risk reduction of CRC related death and length of screening interval influence CRC screening preferences. Furthermore, improving awareness on CRC mortality reduction by CRC screening may increase uptake. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.