Ryan Reynolds

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According to his doctor, it was an essential step.

While doctors still don’t know exactly what causes colon cancer, we do know that regular colon cancer screenings are one important way to lower your risk — and we just got proof of that from a Hollywood A-lister.

According to American Cancer Society recommendations, people at average risk should get screened regularly starting at age 45. Certain lifestyle factors — smoking for a long time, regularly consuming more than one drink a day for women and two for men, not getting regular exercise — can increase your risk for developing colon cancer, which usually starts when a growth in the colon or rectum called a polyp grows out of control and becomes cancerous. And while we know colonoscopies are much simpler than they’re made out to be, thanks to a famous example from someone we know pretty well, they’re absolutely crucial, as Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney learned firsthand when they underwent the preventative screening.

Reynolds filmed his colonoscopy after losing a bet to McElhenney, his friend and co-owner of Wrexham Association Football Club. In the video, which was produced in tandem with Lead from Behind and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Reynolds explains, “Rob and I both turned 45 this year, and part of being this age is getting a colonoscopy,” which the actor describes as “a simple step that could literally —and I mean literally —save your life.”

After clearing out his colon, Reynolds heads in for his colonoscopy. And while viewers don’t see the actual procedure, the doctor says it only takes about 30 minutes. Post-colonoscopy, the doctor tells Reynolds he was able to find “an extremely subtle polyp” on his colon and removed it.

“This was potentially life-saving for you,” the doctor tells him. “I’m not kidding. I’m not being dramatic. This is exactly why you do this.”

Because he’s also 45, McElhenney did a colonoscopy, too, and even though he “won” the bet, the cameras took us behind the scenes anyway. And it’s a good thing he did the screening: The doctor found three small polyps. “They were not a big deal, but certainly a good thing that we found them early and removed them,” the doctor told him.

Part of the reason it’s so important to go in for regular colon cancer screenings is because you could have a polyp and feel completely normal, without even feeling one of the symptoms of colon cancer. Because the doctor is able to examine the colon with a tiny video camera during the colonoscopy, medical staff can spot and remove any abnormal tissue so it doesn’t grow into cancer.

“This saves lives, pure and simple,” Reynolds’ doctor said of the screening.

The bottom line: Cancer screenings are just too important to skip. We have guidelines on what the men in your life should know about screenings and how often to get them. And if the idea of a traditional colonoscopy still sounds like it’s not right for you, even after all this reassurance, there’s a new non-invasive colorectal screening test that can be done from home. Whichever method you choose, make sure a colon cancer screening is on the top of your to-do list.

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