Colorectal cancer (CRC) is amongst the leading causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Emerging evidence suggests that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) exists in the tumour tissue of CRC and is associated with disease outcome. To study whether tumoral HCMV is related to viral reactivation in blood, tumour specimens and pre- and post-operative blood samples from CRC patients were collected prospectively. PCR and quantitative PCR were performed to detect HCMV DNA. HCMV IgG and IgM antibodies were measured using a microparticle enzyme immunoassay. Transcription of a spliced HCMV UL73 gene transcript was analysed by quantitative reverse transcription PCR. HCMV was detected in 42.2% (35/83) of the tumour samples, with a low median viral load (30.08, range 2.33–5704 copies per 500 ng genomic DNA). The vast majority (80/81, 98.8%) of the CRC patients were seropositive for HCMV IgG. HCMV DNA was positive in 11.3% (22/194) of the pre-operative and 8.9% (15/168) of the post-operative blood samples. However, presence of HCMV and its viral load in tumours were not associated with the detection or viral loads in blood samples. About 26.67% (8/30) of the HCMV-positive tumours with available RNA had detectable viral UL73 transcripts, whilst none of the blood samples were positive for viral RNA (P,0.0001). Therefore, presence of HCMV in tumours does not correlate with the serological or viraemic status of CRC patients. Active viral gene transcription occurred in the tumour but not in the blood of CRC patients. HCMV reactivation in CRC patients is possibly due to virus–cancer interactions in the CRC tumour microenvironment.