Lifestyle Risk Factors for Serrated Colorectal Polyps: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Gastroenterology. 2017 Jan;152(1):92-104. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.09.003. Epub 2016 Sep 14.


Background & aims: Certain subsets of colorectal serrated polyps (SP) have malignant potential. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the association between modifiable lifestyle factors and risk for SPs.

Methods: We conducted a systematic search of Medline, Embase, and Web of Science for observational or interventional studies that contained the terms risk or risk factor, and serrated or hyperplastic, and polyps or adenomas, and colorectal (or synonymous terms), published by March 2016. Titles and abstracts of identified articles were independently reviewed by at least 2 reviewers. Adjusted relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were combined using random effects meta-analyses to assess the risk of SP, when possible.

Results: We identified 43 studies of SP risk associated with 7 different lifestyle factors: smoking, alcohol, body fatness, diet, physical activity, medication, and hormone-replacement therapy. When we compared the highest and lowest categories of exposure, factors we found to significantly increase risk for SP included tobacco smoking (RR, 2.47; 95% CI, 2.12-2.87), alcohol intake (RR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.17-1.52), body mass index (RR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.22-1.61), and high intake of fat or meat. Direct associations for smoking and alcohol, but not body fat, tended to be stronger for sessile serrated adenomas/polyps than hyperplastic polyps. In contrast, factors we found to significantly decrease risks for SP included use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.65-0.92) or aspirin (RR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.67-0.99), as well as high intake of folate, calcium, or fiber. No significant associations were detected between SP risk and physical activity or hormone replacement therapy.

Conclusions: Several lifestyle factors, most notably smoking and alcohol, are associated with SP risk. These findings enhance our understanding of mechanisms of SP development and indicate that risk of serrated pathway colorectal neoplasms could be reduced with lifestyle changes.

Keywords: Colon Cancer; Epidemiology; NSAIDs; Nutrition.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / epidemiology
  • Adenoma / etiology*
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Body Mass Index
  • Colon / pathology
  • Colonic Polyps / epidemiology
  • Colonic Polyps / etiology*
  • Colonic Polyps / pathology
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Life Style*
  • Protective Factors
  • Rectal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Rectal Diseases / etiology*
  • Rectal Diseases / pathology
  • Rectum / pathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal