Her Avengers co-star died from the disease at just 43.

By Kylie Gilbert
Mar 11, 2021 @ 3:00 pm
Advertisement

Not only has the past year led to unfathomable loss due to Covid-19, but there's been another devastating trickle-down effect: Many people are forgoing annual check-ups and screenings that could be lifesaving. That includes colon cancer, the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., and one of the most deadly.

That's why Zoe Saldana is speaking up in honor of Colon Cancer Awareness month to encourage people to "take control of their own health" by getting screened for the disease that's touched her personally, both in her own family and with the passing of her friend and Avengers co-star Chadwick Boseman.

As Saldana points out, a study by The Lancet found that colon cancer screenings and diagnoses have dramatically reduced due to Covid-19, with the pandemic compounding the fear and anxiety that many already have about what that doctor's visit might find. "There is no question that putting off appointments can lead to devastating effects for those that are left undiagnosed," Saldana tells InStyle.

Saldana has partnered with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to raise awareness for alternative screening methods, like LetsGetChecked's screening test, which takes away some of the intimidation-factor by letting people test themselves from the comfort of their own home. LetsGetChecked will also be donating $1 million colon cancer tests to underserved and BIPOC communities that studies show are disproportionately affected by the disease. One recent report by the American Cancer Society found that African Americans experience an almost 40% higher rate of death from colon and rectal cancer.

"Through efforts like these, we can all do our part in closing the gap, as healthcare should not be a privilege but a right," Saldana says.

How Zoe Saldana Interview Is Honoring the Late Chadwick Boseman
Credit: Getty Images

The actress is also advocating for everyone to put colon cancer on their radar early because — as Boseman's death from the disease at just 43-year-old tragically highlighted — recent research shows the cancer is on the rise in younger adults. (Although, the vast majority of new colon cancer cases still occur in people 50 and older.)

"Chadwick was a gentle spirit through and through and his passing was a shock to us all," Saldana says. "He has had an immense impact on the world and will continue to both as an actor and person. He inspires me to be a better person, in everything that I do, including my involvement in this cause."

Since early detection is so crucial, Saldana encourages everyone to sit down and have those hard conversations, especially if you have a family history of colon cancer. "You can take it from me, it is more devastating to lose a family member than to sit down and have a conversation with them, even if it seems premature for them in their 20s or 30s," Saldana says. "Since the disease can go easily undetected and is highly deadly, one conversation can make a huge impact and enlighten someone to the importance of regular screening. The more we have these conversations with our loved ones, the more success we'll have in stopping diseases like colon cancer in their tracks."

If there's one silver lining of the pandemic, it's this: "Now more than ever, I think people realize the importance of prioritizing their wellbeing," Saldana says. "It's incredibly empowering to take measures into your own hands."