Definition & Facts for Colon Polyps

What are colon polyps?

Colon polyps are growths on the lining of your colon and rectum. You can have more than one colon polyp.

Are colon polyps cancerous?

Colon and rectal cancer—also called colorectal cancer—most often begins as polyps. Most polyps are not cancerous, but some may turn into cancer over time. Removing polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.1

How common are colon polyps?

Colon polyps are common in American adults. Anywhere between 15 and 40 percent of adults may have colon polyps. Colon polyps are more common in men and older adults.2

Who is more likely to develop colon polyps?

Although anyone can develop colon polyps, you may have a greater chance of developing them if you

An older and younger man sitting together on a couch and smiling.
You may have a greater chance of developing polyps if someone in your family has had them.

When should I start colon polyp screening?

Screening is testing for diseases when you have no symptoms. Finding and removing polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer. Your doctor will recommend screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 if you don’t have health problems or other factors that make you more likely to develop colorectal cancer.4

If you are at higher risk for colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend screening at a younger age. You also may need to be tested more often.

If you are older than age 75, talk with your doctor about whether you should be screened. For more information, read the current colorectal cancer screening guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.


September 2017

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.