RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – For those of us who are old enough to remember, the late Yul Brynner delivered one of the most devastating broadsides ever in the battle to stop smoking.

“Don’t smoke,” he warned in that unmistakable voice of his in commercials.

Lung cancer killed him. He tried to save others from the same fate.

What keeps bringing the Brynner story to mind for me is the warnings people over 50 receive each and every day to have themselves screened for colon cancer.

The best tests and technology in the world are of no use if John Q. and Jane Q. Public choose to ignore them.

If you are 50 or over, get screened!

Science is producing new tests, new procedures and new treatments for colon cancer, which will kill more than 52,000 people this year, according to the government.

Astoundingly, the government reports that up to 60 percent of those deaths could be prevented if people simply had themselves checked.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. It had metastasized – penetrated the lower colon wall – and possible spread to my lymph nodes.

Aggressive rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, surgery to remove most of my colon, and more chemotherapy (using the latest mix of cancer killers) – and answered prayer – have earned me a “Cancer Survivor” label. In fact, I have a “Survivor” banner from an American Cancer Walkathon draped over my office door at a home as a constant reminder of my good fortune.

Even if I had been tested at age 50 rather than 51, I still would have the cancer. But the fact remains I didn’t – and it is only through the grace of God that the cancer had not spread to my liver other organs.

The heart-wrenching stories of Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow who are divided politically but united physically in having to fight recurrence of cancer are generating stories around the world. Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, is fighting a cancer that has spread to her bones. Snow, the outspoken press liaison for President Bush, is hospitalized to fight a spreading of colon cancer to his liver.

Both had been tested when their original cancer episodes were detected, and the spread of Snow’s cancer was discovered when he grew concerned about a growth even though other tests indicated he remained cancer free.

Hopefully, Snow’s caution will lead to a full recovery. Let’s pray as well that Mrs. Edwards successfully combats her cancer.

Colorectal cancer will strike more than 153,000 Americans this year alone. It is one of the deadliest cancers. You may not be able to prevent it even with a good diet. But you can be tested.

Just do it.