Colon Polyp Recurrence High

Regular Screening Necessary, Especially After First Polyp

From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 24, 2003 -- If you've had one colon polyp, you'll likely have another. It's more evidence that people need regular screenings to prevent colon cancer.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women, responsible for more than 57,000 deaths in 2001 alone. Colon polyps, which can lead to colon cancer, are found in about 30%-40% of people aged 60 or older -- and the risk of polyps increases with age. Yet doctors haven't understood what factors determine recurrence of polyps.

A new study explores this issue, looking at polyp occurrence in 8,865 people, all of whom had one polyp removed between 1989 and 1999. Researchers found that 31% of these people had another polyp by 2001. Among people who underwent colon screening at least nine months after the first polyp (52% of the original study group) -- doctors estimated 50% would have yet another polyp within four years.

Several other studies have found similar results, writes lead author Marianne Ulcickas Yood, DSc, MPH, an epidemiologist with Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. Her study appears in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine.

It points to the need for people to get regular colon cancer screenings, says Yood.

The American Cancer Society and other groups advise that if you are over age 50 and have no symptoms of colon polyps or cancer -- and have no family history of colon cancer -- screening with one of the following tests or combination of tests may help decrease your risk of developing colon cancer. Options include:

  • Having a test for blood in the stool (fecal occult blood test) every year
  • Having a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Having a test for blood in the stool every year plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Having a colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Having a double contrast barium enema) every five years.

Colonoscopy is recommended every three to five years if a person has a family history of colon cancer or if polyps have been found in the past.