What are Colon Polyps?

A colon polyp is an abnormal tissue growth that arises on the inner surface of the colon. Polyps are caused by genetic mutations in the DNA of the cells that line the colon. Individuals can grow single or multiple polyps.

Causes of Colon Polyps

The cause or etiology of these mutations leading to polyp formation is not clearly understood, but genetics as well as diet likely play a role.

Symptoms and Complications of Colon Polyps

Most colon polyps are non-cancerous and are almost always silent or asymptomatic (produce no symptoms). However, a large percentage of polyps have the capacity to continue to grow and evolve into a colon cancer and are, therefore, referred to as pre-cancerous polyps. It is felt that almost all colon cancers begin as polyps. At the polyp stage, we cannot tell which polyps are actively cancerous or are pre-cancerous. Only by removing the polyp at the time of colonoscopy can we then analyze the polyp microscopically to determine if the polyp is cancerous, pre-cancerous, or truly benign.

Colon Polyps Prevention & Treatment

There is no definitive method of preventing colon polyps. Avoiding the risk factors one can control, such as tobacco use or poor diet may help to prevent polyps. When polyps do form, avoiding such risk factors may delay their growth. Chemoprevention may be effective in reversing, suppressing or preventing the occurrence of cancer or pre-cancerous polyps. Chemoprevention involves the use of medicines, vitamins or minerals to prevent or decrease the incidence of disease or factors that can lead to disease.

Studies have shown that the risk of developing polyps can be lowered by supplementation with the following micronutrients and antioxidants:

  • calcium
  • vitamin D
  • folate (folic acid)
  • selenium
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin B6
  • beta-carotene
  • curcumin (from turmeric)

Low dose aspirin may also protect against the development of polyps. Interestingly, higher doses were less protective. Fiber, either through diet or supplementation, has not been shown to definitively prevent colon polyps or colon cancer; however, a diet higher in fiber may benefit other gastrointestinal conditions.

Learn More About Colon Polyps »

The board-certified physicians at San Francisco Gastroenterology are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the digestive tract, including colon polyps. Our doctors serve from Marin County, Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto and the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Our goal is simply to provide the highest quality medical care and patient service possible.

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