Colorectal polyps
and cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends that adults begin colorectal cancer (CRC) screening at age 45 years.1

Understanding colorectal polyps

A polyp is a growth that develops on the inner lining of the colon. Polyps are benign (non-cancerous) clumps of cells that are often small, and produce few symptoms other than silent and slow bleeding. 

There are two main types of polyps:

  • Hyperplastic — benign polyps that have no potential to develop into cancer
  • Adenomatous — pre-cancerous polyps which means they have the potential to turn into cancer

Colon cancer can develop from a variety of sources but the most common is through precursor lesions called adenomatous or serrated polyps.2


How common are colorectal polyps? 

The prevalence of colorectal polyps increases with age2 and, while most polyps won’t develop into colon cancer,2 75% of all CRC cases develop from adenomatous polyps.2 That’s why a screening colonoscopy is so important. During a colonoscopy procedure, the doctor can identify and remove the precancerous adenomas.3 Eliminating precancerous polyps reduces the risk of development or death from colorectal cancer.4

75 CRC

The impact of colorectal cancer 

Colorectal cancer:
most common cancer
in the world5

Infographic of the world with green dots indicating locations

Colorectal cancer is more common than you think
. It’s the third most common cancer in men and women,1,5 and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.3 The good news is when colorectal cancer is detected early, before it has spread, the five-year relative survival rate is around 90%.5

And we know that routine screenings at regular intervals are the most powerful tool you have to protect yourself.1,4

Who should get screened? It’s not just older people.

CRC screenings should now start at age 45 according to the American Cancer Society.6 However, people with  higher risks may need to consider screening sooner.7,8 Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates have been increasing in a younger population.It is estimated that, by 2030, more than 1 in 10 colon cancers will be diagnosed in people under 50 years of age.7

Talk to your doctor about your risk factors. Use this downloadable question guide that includes points to cover when you meet with your doctor.

“Colonoscopies is the best way you can protect yourself against colon cancer. It’s preventable.”

– Brook, colon cancer survivor, diagnosed at age 38

Testimonials relate to each individual's experience, thoughts, and opinions. Their accounts are genuine, typical, and documented. Please talk to your doctor regarding this important topic.

Know the colorectal cancer risk factors and symptoms.

Colorectal cancer affects everyone. Risk factors may include environmental or genetic factors.1 The risk of developing colorectal cancer risk increases with age.5  Incidence and death rates are higher for African Americans compared with other racial/ethnic groups.9


Increased waist circumference in adulthood alone is associated with a 53% increased risk of colon cancer.10


Family history
A family history of CRC in first degree relatives is associated with a higher risk of CRC.1,2,5,12


Inflammatory bowel disease
Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are chronic inflammatory conditions that are known to increase the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).1,2,8,11,12


Poor diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and a lack of physical activity contribute to risk of colon cancer.1,2,5,9,10,12

Find a doctor.

Information and resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Always discuss diagnosis and treatment information including risks with your doctor. Keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. 

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About colon
disease surgery

Understand the types of colon disease surgery.

2 women


Find helpful information about colon health, diagnosing, and treating colon disease.

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Hear real-life stories from people who experienced colon cancer.


Ahmed M. Colon Cancer: A Clinician’s Perspective in 2019. Gastroenterology research. 2020;13(1):1-10.


Øines M, Helsingen LM, Bretthauer M, Emilsson L. Epidemiology and risk factors of colorectal polyps. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology. 2017;31(4):419-424.


Corley DA, Jensen CD, Marks AR, et al. Adenoma Detection Rate and Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Death. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2014;370(14):1298-1306.


Niikura R, Hirata Y, Suzuki N, et al. Colonoscopy reduces colorectal cancer mortality: A multicenter, long-term, colonoscopy-based cohort study. PloS one. 2017;12(9).


Brenner H, Kloor M, Pox CP. Colorectal cancer. Lancet (London, England). 2014;383(9927):1490–1502.


Wolf AMD, Fontham ETH, Church TR, et al. Colorectal cancer screening for average-risk adults: 2018 guideline update from the American Cancer Society. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians. 2018;68(4):250–281.


Bailey CE, Hu C-Y, You YN, et al. Increasing disparities in the age-related incidences of colon and rectal cancers in the United States, 1975-2010. JAMA surgery. 2015;150(1):17-22.


Gausman V, Dornblaser D, Anand S, et al. Risk Factors Associated With Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2020;18(12):2752-2759.


DeSantis CE, Siegel RL, Sauer AG, et al. Cancer statistics for African Americans, 2016: Progress and opportunities in reducing racial disparities. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians. 2016;66(4):290-308


Schaberg MN, Smith KS, Greene MW, Frugé AD. Characterizing Demographic and Geographical Differences in Health Beliefs and Dietary Habits Related to Colon Cancer Risk in US Adults. Frontiers in nutrition. 2020;7:568643: 1-8


Lopez A, Collet-Fenetrier B, Belle A, Peyrin-Biroulet L. Patients’ knowledge and fear of colorectal cancer risk in inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of digestive diseases. 2016;17(6):383-391.


Johnson CM, Wei C, Ensor JE, et al. Meta-analyses of colorectal cancer risk factors. Cancer Causes Control. 2013;24(6):1207-22