Colon Polyps


Colon polyps are growths on the lining of the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which are parts of the digestive system.

The 2 most common kinds of polyps are:

  • Adenomatous polyps—which are pre-cancerous and can become larger over time and may develop into cancer
  • Hyperplastic polyps—do not increase in size and only rarely become cancerous

Colon Polyp

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Causes    TOP

The cause of most colon polyps is unknown. It may be partly due to hereditary factors.

There are certain genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Peutz–Jeghers syndrome, which cause many polyps to form.

Risk Factors    TOP

Colon polyps are more common in people over 50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of colon polyps include:

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms are often not present. Polyps are often found during an endoscopy/colonscopy or x-ray. If symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Diarrhea, constipation, and/or bloating that lasts over a period of time
  • Abdominal pain or cramping, rarely

Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

Images of your internal body structures may be done with a barium enema or an abdominal x-ray.

Treatment    TOP

Depending on the size of the polyp, it may be removed. Large polyps are at high risk for becoming cancerous. They should be removed. Usually, polyps can be removed during colonoscopy.

If the polyps are very large, you may need to have surgery to have them removed. Your doctor may send the tissue from the removed polyps to be tested for cancer.

Prevention    TOP

It’s not clear how polyps can be prevented. However, the following guidelines can help you stay healthy and may help prevent not only polyps, but also colon cancer:

  • Eat a high fiber diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Reduce the amount of animal fat in your diet. This occurs in beef and other meat products, as well as full-fat dairy products.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you smoke, ask your doctor how to quit.
  • See your doctor for regular screenings after the age of 50.
  • More frequent screenings may be needed if polyps are found.


American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology


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Accessed July 12, 2013.
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Wise LA, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR, Adams-Campbell LL. Anthropometric risk factors for colorectal polyps in African-American women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16(4):859-868.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013

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