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Types of Polyps That Occur In The Colon And Rectum


A polyp is a growth from a mucous membrane commonly found in your large intestine (colon). The cause of most polyps is not known. Polyps are common in adults.

While not every polyp turns to cancer, experts believe that colorectal cancer typically begins as a small non-cancerous polyp. Fortunately, during a colonoscopy, these polyps can be identified and removed or destroyed--thus preventing colorectal cancer. If a polyp is large enough, tissue can be retrieved and sent for biopsy to determine the exact type of polyp.

There are three types of polyps that commonly occur within the colon. The type of polyp is determined by taking a biopsy (a sample) which is then studied in the lab microscopically.

The three types of polyps (which are described below) are:

  • Adenomatous Polyps
  • Hyperplastic Polyps
  • Inflammatory Polyps


  • Two-thirds of all colon polyps are adenomatous but only a small percentage become cancer.
  • Adenomatous polyps can be flat (sessile) or pedunculated (on a stem). The size and the amount of changes in the cells (dysplasia) determine if the polyp is cancer, precancerous or non-cancerous. These polyps grow slowly and may take years to turn into cancer.
  • People with a history of adenomatous polyps must be periodically reexamined.
  • There are three types of adenomatous polyps: tubular, villous and tubulovilluos.
    • Tubular polyps are the most common type of polyp.
      • Tubular polyps are the ones referred to most often when a doctor speaks of colon or rectal polyps. About 80% of adenomatous polyps removed are of this type.
      • Tubular adenomas usually cause no symptoms. If detected early, they can be removed during a colonoscopy before any cancer cells form.
      • This type of polyp carries a cancer risk that rises as the polyp grows larger.
    • Villous adenomas account for 5% of adenomatous polyps that are removed.
      • Villous adenomas are the most serious type of polyps with a very high cancer risk as they grow larger.
      • Larger sessile villous adenomas may require surgery for complete removal. (For information about surgery for removal of polyps, click here.)
      • Appropriate follow up depends on the size of the polyp and the completeness of removal.
    • Tubulovillous ademonas account for about 15% of the adenomatous polyps that are removed.
      • Tubulovillous ademonas have an increased risk of becoming cancer. The risk grows as the size of the polyp gets larger.


  •  Hyperplastic polyps account for about one-third of all polyps.
  • Hyperplastic polyps are usually very small and often found in the left colon (sigmoid) and in the rectum.
  • These polyps are usually non-cancerous when they are located in the right colon.
  • Larger hyperplastic polyps have a higher risk of becoming cancerous.


  • Inflammatory polyps are most often found in people with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
  • Often called "pseudopolyps" (false polyps), inflammatory polyps are not true polyps. Rather, they are a reaction to chronic inflammation of the colon wall.
  • Inflammatory polyps do not turn into cancer. However, having a history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease does increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

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