Colon polyps are growths that develop along the inner lining of the large intestines and penetrate into the colon, according to MedicineNet. The size of the growths can vary.
Polyps occur when cells mutate abnormally, notes MedicineNet. These are known as immature cells, and they normally die out fast; however, the mutation causes them to remain, leading to a build-up of abnormal, immature cells. This can happen before or after birth. Larger polyps develop when the cells replicate at an alarming rate.
There are different types of polyps, reports MedicineNet. Benign polyps are not harmful, but they can become malignant growths, which are cancerous in nature. Malignant polyps occur due to changes in a cell's genetic structure. The abnormal cells penetrate into the colon lining, and the cells can detach from the polyp, reaching the colon wall and surrounding lymph nodes.
There are also inflammatory polyps, which may form due to such diseases as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, according to Mayo Clinic. These growths are usually not a threat, but they can increase a person's risk of getting colon cancer.
Most colon polyps are not harmful, explains Mayo Clinic. The ones that do turn malignant can lead to a fatal outcome if left untreated. A person can develop polyps regardless of age, but people who are age 50 and over are at greater risk.