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Polyp Removal Doesn't Always Signal Elevated Colon Cancer Risk: Study

Update Date: Aug 28, 2014 09:17 AM EDT

Doctors may be performing too many repeat colonoscopies on people who've had pre-cancerous polyps removed during an earlier colon cancer screening, according to a new study.

Majority of these patients have no greater risk of dying from colon cancer than the general public, the study added. 

People who have a single low-risk polyp removed have a much lower risk of colon cancer, in comparison to both the general public and patients who have multiple polyps or aggressive polyps removed, study authors said. 

They added that these low-risk patients likely don't need the aggressive follow-up called for under current guidelines. 

"These findings support more intense surveillance of the high-risk group, but should maybe lead to reconsideration of the guidelines regarding the low-risk group," lead author Dr. Magnus Loberg, a lecturer in health management and health economics at the University of Oslo, said in a press release. 

About one-quarter of all colonoscopies performed in the United States are done as increased cancer surveillance for patients who had polyps removed during earlier colonoscopies, said Dr. David Lieberman, chief of gastroenterology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore.

"That's a lot of colonoscopy, and if we don't need to do as many, that potentially would free up more resources and enable more screening exams to be done on new patients," Lieberman said.

"These data would suggest a 10-year follow-up would be fine for most patients with low-risk polyps," he added.

The study is published in the Aug. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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