There have been rapid increases in the incidence of colorectal cancer in Norway since the 1960s, and rates rank among the highest worldwide. The primary objectives are to describe trends in left- and right-sided colon cancer and rectal cancer by calendar period and birth cohort and to generate hypotheses as to the etiological factors in operation. Although the age-adjusted incidence rates of both colon and rectal cancer increased in Norway in both sexes up to the 1980s, subsite- and age-specific analyses reveal a deceleration in the rate of increase thereafter, apparent in the rates of both left-sided colon and rectal cancer. Overall trends in incidence of right-sided colon cancer continue to increase in both sexes. Rates in both left- and right-sided colon cancers have tended to stabilize or decrease among successive generations born after 1950, however, while incidence rates of rectal cancer appear to be increasing in recent generations. The all-ages rates are thus in keeping with the commonly reported “left to right shift” of colon cancer, although standardization masks important observations. The cohort patterns provide further evidence that factors earlier in life are important, and while the complex etiology makes interpretation difficult, modifications in diet, obesity and physical activity in Norway are likely among the drivers of the trends in one or more of the colorectal subsites examined. In summary, the recent downturn in the disease at younger ages provides some reason for optimism, although possible increases in rectal cancer among recent birth cohorts are of concern.