What causes colon polyps

Colon polyps

Colon polyps: Bulging of the colon mucosa into the intestinal clearing, d. H. into the interior of the intestine. The initially benign tumors (adenomas) that originate in the glandular tissue of the intestinal mucosa can become malignant over time: the majority of all colon cancers develop from such adenomas. More than 50% of colon polyps are located in the rectum. About 10% of adults are affected, and the incidence increases with age. Polyps rarely cause symptoms; they are often discovered by chance during a colonoscopy and then generally removed and examined with tissue.

Sometimes patients have over 100 polyps. The medic then speaks of one Polyposis intestinalis, the polyposis is hereditary, of a familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). These patients usually have their entire colon removed as a precaution, otherwise colon cancer will inevitably occur in the course of their lives.

Leading complaints

  • Usually no complaints
  • In rare cases, bleeding or blood deposits on the stool, diarrhea / constipation, abdominal pain, intestinal obstruction.

When to the doctor

In the next few days at

  • Blood in the stool
  • Recurring abdominal pain
  • Stool irregularities.

The illness

Disease emergence

Polyps of the colon or rectum mucosa vary greatly in shape and size. There are stalked, tubular polyps, broad-based, shaggy polyps and mixed forms. Although they are (initially) benign, they very often degenerate into colon cancer within around 10 years. It is not known how colon polyps develop. However, it is very likely that a high-fat, low-fiber diet significantly favors the development. Other risk factors are

  • Smoking, alcohol abuse
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family disposition.


Most colon polyps do not cause any discomfort. Bleeding that is either visible on the stool or is so minor that it cannot be seen with the eye (occult bleeding) occurs only very rarely. Large, broad-based, villus-rich (villous) adenomas can produce large amounts of mucus and thus lead to a loss of fluid and potassium. In general, it is possible that large polyps impair the passage of food, lead to abdominal pain and rarely even to intestinal obstruction.

Diagnostic assurance

Most colon polyps are discovered by chance during an examination of the bowel.

Small colon polyp that was accidentally discovered and removed during a preventive colonoscopy. Polyps that do not bleed, have a compact shape and a smooth surface are usually benign - which the tissue examination also confirmed in this specific case.
Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart


If the doctor finds polyps during a colonoscopy, he removes them endoscopically in the same session with the help of a pair of pliers or a snare and has the tissue examined. Does not succeed all To remove polyps in one treatment step, another procedure takes place. In the case of larger polyps (especially if they lie flat and broad-based on the intestinal mucosa), an operation may be necessary, possibly even with partial removal of the large intestine.

Since new polyps can always arise, an endoscopic check-up is recommended every 3 years as a preventive measure.


In principle, all polyps can degenerate malignantly and turn into colon cancer. The risk is estimated to be around 50% for polyps larger than 2 cm. However, since small polyps can also degenerate, all polyps found during a colonoscopy are removed to be on the safe side.

The risk of colon cancer in hereditary polyposis diseases is 80–100%, depending on the gene mutation. These patients must be closely monitored, and the precautionary removal of the colon is usually recommended.

Your pharmacy recommends

Have a colonoscopy every 3 years if you have had colon polyps in the past. Live intestinally healthy, d. H.

  • get plenty of exercise
  • eat a wholesome and high-fiber diet
  • keep alcohol and cigarettes in moderation; it is best to quit smoking completely
  • and try to reduce excess weight.


Dr. med. Arne Schäffler, Dr. Bernadette Andre-Wallis in: Health Today, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Revision and update: Dr. med. Sonja Kempinski | last changed on at 16:47

Important note: This article has been written according to scientific standards and has been checked by medical professionals. The information communicated in this article can in no way replace professional advice in your pharmacy. The content cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or to start therapy.