The group found that participants who developed cancer were almost four times as likely as those who did not to still have some of their polyps, and about three times as likely to have let at least five years go by without a follow-up colonoscopy.
In contrast, the only characteristic of polyps that was associated with cancer risk was having at least three detected, which was twice as likely in the group that developed colorectal cancer.
Larger polyps were not associated with greater colorectal cancer risk in this study, and that may be because they are easier for the doctor to remove, according to Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
The study also found that the association between colorectal cancer and waiting more than five years for a follow-up colonoscopy was particularly strong for participants who were under 70; this group was more than six times as likely to have cancer.
It also is critical for younger patients to adhere to follow-up recommendations, Sinicrope said.
Patients also should take an active role in ensuring they get good colonoscopies, Meyerhardt added.
"It's a reasonable question to ask the person doing your colonoscopy: 'Have you done a lot of these in the past?'" he said. "If [your doctor] only practices them very infrequently and does a scope once a month, that may be an issue."
After the procedure, "discuss with the doctor ... how good of a colonoscopy they did and if they were satisfied they could see everything," Meyerhardt said. "If [a polyp] was removed, what were the characteristics and when should follow-up be?"
A follow-up or surveillance colonoscopy is important even if polyps were completely cut out because "somebody who makes polyps has a tendency to make more polyps in the future," Meyerhardt explained.
The American Cancer Society advises that people who
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