What Are Colorectal Polyps?

What Are Colorectal Polyps?

Colorectal polyps are small, cellular growths that can develop in the lining of the rectum or the colon, the longest part of the large intestine. Most polyps in the colon and rectum are benign (noncancerous). But over time, some colon polyps can become cancerous.

Colon polyps are detected in about 30 percent of American adults over the age of 45. Colon polyps often don’t cause any symptoms, so it’s important to have regular colorectal cancer screenings, such as a colonoscopy.

Once detected, the removal of a colon polyp can reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer.

Types of Colorectal Polyps

Types of Colorectal Polyps

There are several types of polyps that can form in the lining of your colon. The growths come in different shapes and sizes, and some types of colon polyps are more likely than others to develop into colorectal cancer.

Not all polyps are precancerous or cancerous. But regardless of type, it is generally recommended that all polyps be removed.

Types of colorectal polyps include:

  • Adenomatous colon polyp: Also referred to as adenomas, these gland-like growths are the most common type of polyps. Only 5 percent of adenomatous polyps turn cancerous over the span of seven to 10 years or more. Typically, all adenomas are removed.
  • Hyperplastic polyp: Hyperplastic colorectal polyps are small growths that come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They are considered extremely low risk for evolving into cancer, but will typically be removed.
  • Sessile serrated polyp: These polyps are flat and slightly raised in appearance. Sessile serrated polyps are usually labeled as precancerous polyps and will be removed.
  • Malignant colon polyp: A malignant polyp is cancerous. A doctor can determine if a polyp is malignant by examining a tissue sample (biopsy), collected during a colonoscopy.

Signs & Symptoms of Colorectal Polyps


Most individuals will not exhibit any colorectal polyp symptoms. The majority of polyps are discovered during a routine colonoscopy.

However, some people may exhibit symptoms of colon polyps, including:

  • Blood in the stool. Red streaks in your bowel movements, or black stool, could be an indicator of colon polyps or cancer.
  • Rectal bleeding. Blood on the toilet paper, when you wipe, can be a sign of intestinal bleeding.
  • Diarrhea or constipation. Any prolonged changes in your bowel movements (lasting a week or more) could be a sign of a large colon polyp or cancer.
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anemia: Chronic bleeding inside the intestine can lead to an iron deficiency.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, reach out to a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian. They can help find the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.

What Causes Colorectal Polyps?

What Causes Colorectal Polyps?

Colon polyps develop from abnormal tissue growth. As the lining of the large intestine constantly renews itself, a faulty gene can cause cells to multiply at a more rapid rate.

Doctors don’t exactly know what causes polyps in the lining of the colon, or why only a small percentage of colorectal polyps evolve into cancer.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

While the precise cause of why colorectal polyps develop is unknown, there are a host of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors that may increase your likelihood of having them.

Risk factors for developing colorectal polyps include:

  • Smoking and alcohol use.
  • Age. People over the age of 40 are more likely to have colon polyps.
  • Family history of colon polyps. Most people with an average risk of colon polyps begin screening tests at age 45. But if a close family member has a history of polyps, your doctor may recommend earlier (first colonoscopy at age 35, or 10 years before your relative was diagnosed) and more frequent screenings.
  • Hereditary disorders. These can cause genetic mutations, including Lynch syndrome, Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Gardner’s syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS), and serrated polyposis syndrome (SPS), increasing the risk of colorectal polyps.
  • Unhealthy diet. Certain foods have been linked to an increased risk of polyps.

What food causes polyps in the colon?

Foods associated with an increased risk of developing colon polyps include:

  • Fried and fatty foods.
  • Red meat, including beef and pork.
  • Processed meats, including sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats.



Anyone can develop colorectal polyps, but you can reduce your chances of getting them. Here are some suggestions on how to prevent colon polyps:

  • Maintain a healthy diet. Research suggests that eating a diet high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables can help prevent the formation of polyps in the colon.
  • Increase your intake of vitamin D and calcium.
  • Know your risk factors. Go over your family history and lifestyle habits with your doctor. They can determine whether or not you are considered high risk for colon polyps.
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Colorectal Polyp Care

The most important thing you can do for colorectal polyps is to find them. Periodic, routine screening is essential, even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms. NewYork-Presbyterian houses a team of top-notch specialists that can determine your risk factors, perform key colorectal cancer screening tests, and provide treatment for colorectal polyps if discovered.

Contact NewYork-Presbyterian today to discuss any colorectal polyp concerns or to schedule a periodoscopy.