Causes and Risk Factors of Colon Polyps

dr. simi paknikar
Medically Reviewed by dr. simi paknikar, MD
Last Updated on Mar 10, 2016
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Causes and Risk Factors

Colon polyps are the result of abnormal cell growth. Drinking alcohol in excess, especially beer, increases the risk of getting colon polyps.

Colon polyps are the result of abnormal cell growth. Mutations in the genes that control cell division lead to polyps. Polyps can develop anywhere in the large intestine. There is a hereditary disorder called Familial adenomatous polyposis in which numerous colonic polyps arise and often causes colon cancer by age 40. Peutz-Jeghers syndrome is another disease of genetic origin that causes multiple polyps in the stomach, small bowel, and colon along with distinctive pigmented skin lesions.

Factors that may contribute to the formation of colon polyps and colon cancer include:

  • Age: The incidence of colon polyps increases with age. Generally the risk starts to increase around the age of 40. About 50% of the people over the age of 60 are estimated to harbour at least one polyp.
  • Long-standing inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can increase the risk of acquiring polyps.
  • Family history: Having a parent, sibling or child with colon polyp or colon cancer increases your risk. Anyone with a family history (can be any member of the family) is at risk of developing polyps.
  • A previous history of having a polyp places you at risk of acquiring polyps again.
  • Smoking significantly increases the risk of colon polyps and colon cancer.
  • Drinking alcohol in excess, especially beer, increases the risk of getting colon polyps.
  • A person who smokes and drinks is at much higher risk.
  • Sedentary life style places people at risk of getting polyps.
  • Being overweight or obese has also been found to be risk factors.
  • Black races and Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European descent are at high risk.

Gene mutations lead to a number of conditions associated with polyps:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Gardner's syndrome
  • MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)
  • Lynch syndrome, also called hereditary Non Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC)
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)

References:

  1. Cecil Medicine, 23rd Ed.
  2. The Merck Manual, 18th Ed.
  3. Mayo Clinic

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