Resveratrol is one of the most promising phytoalexins for use as an anti-cancer agent, which is present in the skin of red grapes and berries. Resveratrol has been demonstrated to modulate a number of signalling pathways that are involved in carcinogenesis. In the present study, the function of resveratrol as a pro-apoptotic agent in colorectal cancer cell lines, including HCT116, CO115 and SW48, was investigated. The results revealed that resveratrol supressed cell viability. Additionally, resveratrol enhanced the expression of tumour protein p53 (p53) and p53 target genes, including Bcl2 associated X, apoptosis regulator and Bcl2 binding component 3 that have a pivotal role in p53-dependent apoptosis. Furthermore, treating cells with resveratrol upregulated SET domain containing lysine methyltransferase 7/9 (SET7/9) expression, which positively regulates p53 through its mono-methylation at lysine 372, compared with untreated cells. Furthermore, treating cells with resveratrol induced the expression of apoptotic markers including cleaved caspase-3 and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARP) compared with untreated cells. However, the genetic knockdown of SET7/9 by short hairpin RNA attenuated the resveratrol-driven overexpression of p53, cleaved caspase-3 and PARP. Collectively, these results reveal the molecular mechanisms by which resveratrol induces p53 stability in colon cancer that results in the activation of p53-mediated apoptosis.