Michael Douglas Cancer: How Oral Sex Caused Actor's Throat Cancer [REPORT]

By Staff Reporter on June 3, 2013 11:27 AM EDT

Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas claims oral sex and the HPV virus as the cause of his throat cancer. (Photo: Reuters)

Michael Douglas recently admitted that an unhealthy lifestyle ultimately caused him to contract throat cancer. While Douglas is known to drink and smoke, the actor actually claimed his throat cancer was caused by performing oral sex on women.

Michael Douglas' claim was revealed in an interview with the Guardian newspaper that was published Monday. When the actor was asked whether he now regretted his years of smoking and drinking, usually thought to be the cause of throat cancer, Douglas replied:

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"No. Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus."

Diagnosed in 2010, 68-year-old Michael Douglas received extensive chemotherapy and has been cancer free for more than two years.

The HPV virus is a sexually transmitted disease known initially known to cause cervical and anal cancer as well as genital warts. Now, HPV is believed to be responsible for an increasing proportion of oral cancers. In fact, Bloomberg reports that a 2011 report suggests HPV may cause more cases of throat cancer in men than smoking. In fact, HPV-related oral cancer is expected to be more common than HPV-related cervical cancer by 2020.

According to ABC News, Doctors now estimate that up to one third of mouth and throat cancers are HPV-related, and are likely to have been caused by oral sex. Britain's Department of Health claims oral sex with four or more people in your lifetime can raise the risks. HPV-related oral cancers are most common in straight men in their 40s and 50s.

"It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the HPV type 16 is the causative agent in oropharyngeal cancer," said Mahesh Kumar, a neck surgeon of London. Recent studies of 1,316 patients with oral cancer found that 57 percent of them were HPV-16 positive.

According to Bloomberg, Michael Douglas' HPV claim is causing UK medical specialists to call for the vaccination of boys and girls against the human papilloma virus.

Merck & Co. offers a vaccine known as Gardasil, which prevents HPV-related cervical cancer. GlaxoSmithKline Plc offers an HPV vaccine that is not marketed for boys.

"There's also momentum for vaccination for boys as gay men can't benefit from vaccination in girls," said Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant at Glaxo and honorary senior lecturer at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London. "It's partly an equality issue."

According to a survey in the U.S., two-thirds of U.S. teenagers and young adults admit to performing oral sex. Vaccinations are recommended for boys ages 11 and 12.

In Australia, more than 280,000 boys will be eligible for free doses of Merck's Gardasil this year, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said in February. The measure is estimated to prevent a quarter of new HPV infections.

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