In the United States, about 1 in every 3 adults will have a colorectal polyp—an abnormal growth that forms on the inner (mucosal) wall of the colon or rectum. Most polyps are benign (not cancerous). “However, many polyps are precancerous [adenomas], which, if they remain in place for over 5 to 7 years, may progress towards a cancer,” says Yale Medicine’s Harry Aslanian, MD, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.
“The detection and removal of colorectal polyps in a benign state prevents them from ever progressing towards a cancer,” he says. That’s why doctors encourage adults over 50 to have regular screening tests. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or polyps may benefit from initiating screening sooner.