It is hard to know if all colon polyps turn into cancer because polyps are rarely left in the colon long enough to “wait and see.” However, it does take many years for a polyp to develop into cancer. Research demonstrates that most cancers arise through a series of abnormalities. For instance, most polyps start as benign tumors (tubular adenoma), then develop low grade dysplasia (abnormal cell growth) which changes to high grade dysplasia, and then finally into cancer. These changes are usually a result of mutations in the DNA of the polyp’s cells. Each phase may take months or years to progress; however, the best way to prevent colon cancer is through regular screening via colonoscopy with removal of any polyps or abnormal growths.
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Polyps are small, painless tissue growths that can form in the colon for reasons that are not clear. Most polyps are benign and in their present form are not a threat to health. But some colon polyps can turn cancerous, or malignant, and malignant tumors in the colon are life threatening.
Keep in mind, however, that most polyps do not develop into colon cancer. Furthermore, polyps that have been detected in the colon can be removed, eliminating the possibility that a particular polyp will turn cancerous.
Polyps tend to grow slowly over time and do not always result in cancer. That being said, however, the chance of cancer formation increases as the polyp increases in size. This is why we remove polyps at the time of colonoscopy.