Background The xenobiotic transporters, Multidrug Resistance 1 (MDR1/ABCB1) and Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (BCRP/ABCG2) may restrict intestinal absorption of various carcinogens, including heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) derived prostaglandins promote gastrointestinal carcinogenesis, affecting angiogenesis, apoptosis, and invasiveness. The aim of this study was to investigate if polymorphisms in these genes were associated with risk of colorectal cancer (CRC), and to investigate possible interactions with lifestyle factors such as smoking, meat consumption, and NSAID use. Methods The following polymorphisms were analyzed; a synonymous MDR1 C3435T (rs1045642) in exon26, G-rs3789243-A in intron3, the functional BCRP C421A (rs2231142), the two COX-2 A-1195G (rs689466) and G-765C (rs20417) in the promoter region, and the COX-2 T8473C (rs5275) polymorphisms in the 3'-untranslated region. The polymorphisms were assessed together with lifestyle factors in a nested case-cohort study of 359 cases and a random cohort sample of 765 participants from the Danish prospective Diet, Cancer and Health study. Results Carriers of the variant allele of MDR1 intron 3 polymorphism were at 1.52-fold higher risk of CRC than homozygous wild type allele carriers (Incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 1.52, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.12-2.06). Carriers of the variant allele of MDR1 C3435T exon 26 had a lower risk of CRC than homozygous C-allele carriers (IRR = 0.71 (CI:0.50-1.00)). There was interaction between these MDR1 polymorphisms and intake of red and processed meat in relation to CRC risk. Homozygous MDR1 C3435T C-allele carriers were at 8% increased risk pr 25 gram meat per day (CI: 1.00-1.16) whereas variant allele carriers were not at increased risk (p for interaction = 0.02). COX-2 and BCRP polymorphisms were not associated with CRC risk. There was interaction between NSAID use and MDR1 C3435T and COX-2 T8473C (p-values for interaction 0.001 and 0.04, respectively). Conclusion Two polymorphisms in MDR1 were associated with CRC risk and there was interaction between these polymorphisms and meat intake in relation to CRC risk. Our results suggest that MDR1 polymorphisms affect the relationship between meat and CRC risk.