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Small clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon or rectum are called colon polyps. Although most polyps are harmless, some can develop into cancer.

Who’s at risk?

Most people who develop colon polyps are 50 or older. Additionally, patients with a family history of colon polyps or who have inflammatory intestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, are at a greater risk of developing them.

Diet, lack of exercise and alcohol and tobacco use can also contribute to your chances of developing the polyps.

Detecting colon polyps

Often, colon polyps show no symptoms. Receiving screening tests, like a colonoscopy, can help identify them. When patients are screened, the doctor can remove any polyps before they become cancerous.

Other times, colon polyps can cause rectal bleeding, change in stool color (red streaks), long-term constipation or diarrhea and abdominal pain. If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, you should visit your doctor.

How long does it take for a polyp to turn into cancer?

The growth and mutation of colon polyps into cancer is a slow process, taking an estimated 10 years on average. So as long as patients are screened, it is unlikely they will develop cancerous polyps. Simply getting a colonoscopy after turning 50 can help save your life.

If you believe you are at risk or may have developed colon polyps, schedule a screening with your doctor.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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