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Photo by: Twitter: @WrexhamFX

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are no strangers to the camera, so it should come as no surprise that it was a camera that may have prevented a serious disease. In a new video from Lead from Behind and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the two actors shared their experience getting screening colonoscopies.

“Rob and I both, we turned 45 this year,” Reynolds says in the video. “And you know, part of being this age is getting a colonoscopy. It’s a simple step that could literally, and I mean literally, save your life.”

In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated its guidelines to recommend that people of average risk start colorectal cancer screenings at 45 instead of 50. The move aligned with guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society in 2018 and highlights growing concerns around an increase in colorectal cancer cases among young people.

“People should know that colon cancer is a preventable disease,” said Dr. Mark Friedman of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. “If a patient is screened appropriately, early detection and treatment drastically improves outcomes. Colon cancer can affect all genders and races, and people should talk to their health care providers about when they should start screening.”

If a patient is screened appropriately, early detection and treatment drastically improves outcomes.
Dr. Mark Friedman, Gastrointestinal Oncology Program

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis and third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. While incidence rates have dropped in recent years, it is mostly among older adults. From 2012-2016, the rates have increased by 2% every year in those under 50.

Reynolds’ procedure was performed by CBS Chief Medical Correspondent Jonathan LaPook, who discovered a small polyp in the actor’s colon.

“You did such a good prep that I was able to find an extremely subtle polyp on the right side of your colon,” LaPook told Reynolds after the procedure. “This was potentially life-saving for you. I’m not kidding. I’m not being overly dramatic. This is exactly why you do this.”

During McElhenney’s procedure, gastroenterologist Dr. Leo Treyzon found three small polyps.

“They were not a big deal but certainly a good thing that we found them early and removed them,” said Treyzon.

The updated guidelines apply to asymptomatic people of average risk: no prior diagnosis of colorectal cancer, no family history or genetic disorders that increase your risk of the disease, no history of precancerous polyps, and no diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease. Selective screening is recommended for people ages 76-85 based on overall health, screening history and preferences.

“I think many people are unaware that they may be at risk for colon cancer or don’t know that they need colon cancer screening,” said Friedman. “And I think that there are a lot of negative stigmata about getting a colonoscopy and this also stops people from getting the exam. In actuality, it’s an extremely important test to prevent cancer and very easy and safe to do.”

The guidelines recommend screenings including colonoscopy, computed tomography colonography, flexible sigmoidoscopy and stool-based tests with high sensitivity. Any abnormal screening test will require evaluation with a colonoscopy. With the task force’s official recommendation, colorectal cancer screening tests for people 45 to 49 will be covered by insurance companies, making it accessible and affordable to millions more Americans.