Colon polyps are small growths in the intestine and rectum that can become cancerous. Colon polyp size can help your doctor assess your cancer risk. Larger polyps are more likely to become cancerous than smaller ones.
Doctors classify colon polyps based on factors such as their size, location, and appearance. These classifications help doctors determine their risk of becoming colorectal cancer. Knowing what type of polyps you have can also help your doctor determine the best way to manage them.
Most polyps never become cancer, but polyps classified as adenomas are considered precancerous. Larger polyps tend to have a higher chance of developing cancer than smaller ones.
Keep reading to learn about how polyps are classified based on their size and type, and the risk factors associated with these classifications.
The size of a colon polyp generally correlates with its chances of turning into cancer. Doctors often use the size of the polyp to determine the best way to manage it.
Neoplastic polyps are polyps that have the potential to become cancerous. According to
- they’re at least 10 millimeters in diameter
- their cells show precancerous changes
- they’re classified as villous or tubulovillous adenomas
Advanced adenomas have a
|Diameter in millimeters
|less than 5
|They make up about 75% of all polyps, according to a 2020 review, and rarely progress into colorectal cancer. Only about
|more than 10
|Large polyps have the highest chance of becoming cancerous, with
The three main classifications for polyps are:
- adenomatous polyps, also called adenomas
- hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps
- sessile serrated adenomas (SSAs) and traditional serrated adenomas (TSAs)
Adenomas and serrated adenomas have the highest risk of becoming cancerous. Scientists further classify adenomas as tubular, villous, and tubulovillous depending on their appearance.
Inflammatory and hyperplastic polyps rarely become cancerous.
Years ago, the
The majority of colorectal cancers begin as colon polyps. According to a
Colon cancer risk factors
Many of the risk factors for developing colon cancer are lifestyle habits that you can modify. According to the
- lack of physical activity
- diet low in fruit and vegetables
- low fiber and high fat diet or diet high in processed meats
- tobacco use
- high alcohol consumption
- having overweight or obesity
Some risk factors are out of your control or mostly out of your control, such as:
- family history of bowel cancer
- inflammatory bowel disease
- genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis
Regular screening for colon cancer is critical for discovering precancerous growths before they turn into cancer. It can also help you detect cancer in the early stages when it’s easiest to treat.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends:
|Level of evidence
|45 to 49
|All adults should be screened.
|50 to 75
|All adults should be screened.
|76 to 85
|Some people should be screened depending on overall health and prior screening history.
Polyps are irregular growths in your bowel. Doctors often classify polyps based on size and type to determine their risk of becoming colorectal cancer.
Polyps classified as adenomas are considered precancerous and should be removed. Larger polyps have a higher chance of becoming cancer than small polyps.
Regular colon cancer screening gives you the best chance of catching adenomas before they become cancerous or catching colon cancer in the earliest stages.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults between 45 and 75 years old get screened for colon cancer. If you’re between the ages of 75 and 85, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor to find out if you should be screened.