What Causes Colon Polyps

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What is a Colon Polyp?

A colon polyp is a growth that has developed from cells usually in the shape of a mushroom that form on the lining of the colon. There are smaller polyps that can take on the shape of a button or a small cherry. Most of these polyps are not cancerous. Over time, however, they can develop into cancer. People who have polyps in their colon are encouraged to seek further medical attention.

How would I know if have them or not?

That is a very good question, because usually there are no symptoms associated with them. Physicians recommend regular screening to determine if colon polyps are present. To screen for colon polyps, procedures such as a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy are performed, allowing a physician to get a closer look and take a biopsy of them to determine if they are cancerous or not.

Are all colon polyps the same?

Not all colon polyps are the same. The fact is that there are several types of polyps that are found in the colon, they are:

Inflammatory polyp – These types of polyps are inflamed and associated with conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease.

Metaplastic – polyps that are not malignant and are the most common type found in the colon. They usually do not grow larger than 5mm.

Neoplastic – These types of colon polyps can be malignant or benign. A physician will usually want to take a biopsy to determine what the further treatment would be. If these types of polyps are found to the cancerous, and detected early, lives can be saved. That is why it is important to be screened on a regular basis.

Hamartomatous – Are usually growths of a mixture of tissues that develop in the colon or other organs.

A physician would be able to explain to you what type of colon polyp was found, and what treatment would be the best to take. Screening for colon polyps are very important because, if detected in the early stages, they can be removed to prevent the possibility of becoming cancerous. Colon cancer is often fatal if not detected in the early stages of the disease. Most physicians recommend that all polyps be removed as soon as possible.

What Causes Them?

What causes colon polyps is not known and anyone can develop them. However, people who are overweight, have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, people who smoke or eat low-fiber- high fat diets are at higher risk of developing them. It has been determined that people over 50 are at higher risk of developing the polyps, this being the common risk factor. The fact is that 10 to 20% of people who develop them are over the age of 50.

People who have had family members diagnosed with familial polyposis, colorectal polyps, or colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing the type of colon polyps that can develop into colon cancer. Familial polyposis is hereditary and can form 100 precancerous polyps in the rectum or large intestines. These polyps are the ones that can develop into colon cancer if they are not removed.

On a special Note

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be screened for colon polyps. The screening process itself can be embarrassing, however it has been proven that such screenings have saved lives because the polyps were detected in the early stages.


Mayo Clinic (ref1)

Merck Manuals

Mayo Clinic (ref2)

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center