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What Causes Colon Polyps?

What Causes Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are frequently found and removed during a colonoscopy. If you’ve ever had one, you may have had a lot of questions, including “What causes colon polyps?” Read on to learn more about colon polyps and what causes them.

What are Colon Polyps?

Polyps are growths that develop on the inner lining of the colon. Polyps are fairly common. While many are benign, some can develop into cancer if not identified and promptly removed.

Symptoms of Colon Polyps

Colon polyps often do not cause symptoms in the early stages, and many individuals might not know they have them.

Because of this, routine colon cancer screening is vital.

A screening colonoscopy is done to detect polyps before they develop any symptoms. Early detection increases the chances of successfully treating or removing polyps before they potentially turn into cancer.

When polyps are symptomatic, they may lead to noticeable changes, including:

  • Changes in bowel movements – Persistent diarrhea or constipation lasting more than a week could indicate polyps.
  • Blood in your stool – Red or black stools can indicate bleeding, possibly from polyps.
  • Abdominal pain – Larger polyps may cause discomfort in the belly area.
  • Anemia – Polyps can lead to bleeding in the digestive tract, causing anemia, which might result in fatigue and shortness of breath.

What Causes Colon Polyps?

The risk of developing colon polyps significantly increases as you age, particularly after 45 years old. The cumulative effects of dietary and environmental factors over time are thought to contribute to changes in the colon’s cellular structure. Other risk factors include:

  • Family history: If you have a family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer, your genetic makeup may predispose you to similar conditions. This genetic risk means that cells in the colon might be more likely to grow abnormally.
  • Lifestyle factors such as:
    • Smoking: The toxins in cigarette smoke can cause inflammation and cellular damage throughout the body, including the colon, which can increase the risk of polyp development.
    • Excessive alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol use can lead to inflammation and disruptions in the normal functioning of the digestive system, which might increase polyp risk.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight often leads to increased levels of inflammation and certain hormones that may promote the growth of polyps.
  • Diabetes: High blood insulin and sugar levels can promote abnormal cell growth, including in the colon.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of regular physical activity can slow digestive function and alter metabolic pathways, potentially leading to the growth of polyps.

Preventing Colon Polyps

While you can’t change your age or genetic predisposition, you can reduce your risk through lifestyle choices:

  • Seeking help to stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake
  • Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day
  • Exercising and managing weight effectively

Colon Polyp Screening and Diagnosis

The primary method for detecting colon polyps is through a colonoscopy, which involves using a camera to inspect the colon visually. During this procedure, any polyps detected can be removed. The recommended starting age for colonoscopy is 45 or earlier if you have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer.

Unlike other screening tests that might only flag issues or require a follow-up procedure for removal, a colonoscopy covers both bases—diagnosis and treatment. These aspects make it incredibly efficient and significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by catching and removing polyps early. The comprehensive view a colonoscopy provides also helps ensure nothing is missed, giving you and your doctor a clearer picture of your colon’s health. Additionally, other screening tests, like at-home stool sample kits, may miss polyps or even early colon cancer, putting you at risk for poor outcomes in the future.

How to Get a Colonoscopy

A gastroenterologist is the type of doctor who performs colonoscopies. When you schedule your appointment, discussing your medical history and any symptoms you might be experiencing with your doctor is important. While the question of “what causes colon polyps” has many different answers, one thing is clear: regular colonoscopies are the most reliable way to find and remove them before it’s too late.

Don’t delay – schedule your colonoscopy appointment today!

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