Michael Douglas says oral sex gave him throat cancer, but is he correct?

Yahoo Lifestyle
Michael Douglas says oral sex gave him throat cancer, but is he correct?

Michael Douglas has shocked fans in a new astonishingly frank interview, where he revealed oral sex was the cause of his throat cancer diagnosis in 2010.

The Liberace actor was asked whether his throat cancer was a result of a lifetime of drinking and smoking in a newspaper interview, where he revealed it was because he contracted HPV [human papilloma virus].

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

The 68-year-old then seemed to confuse matters by adding: "But yeah, it's a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer. And if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it."

[Michael Douglas reveals oral sex caused his cancer, not smoking and drinking]

[HPV vaccine: Why are some parents still claiming it's unnecessary?]

Michael Douglas' comments have raised questions over whether oral sex is in fact linked to throat cancer, and the risks of HPV. Here, we reveal the key facts about HPV you need to know:

1. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in adults. It's believed that by the time we are 50, around 80 per cent of us will have contracted at least one strain.

2. The HPV virus causes 99 per cent of all cases of cervical cancer, genital warts and some less common cancers.

3. There is no cure for the HPV virus, which is why health management by prevention - including vaccination - is so important.

4. In the UK, HPV strains are typically classified into two categories - 'high risk' and 'low risk.' Both can cause the growth of abnormal cells, but only high-risk types can lead to cancer.

5. HPV is passed by genital contact, usually during sex. People with weakened immune systems, or those with HIV are more susceptible to HPV infection.

6. Most cases of HPV show no symptoms or health problems, which is why it has been dubbed the 'silent infection.' However, certain types cause genital warts and other cellular changes.

7. The main risk factors for oral cancer are drinking alcohol and smoking, but there is growing evidence that infection with HPV in the mouth is a major cause of oral cancer.

8. The HPV vaccine, which is administered by injection, protects against 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

8. For anyone who hasn't been vaccinated against HPV, smear tests or health checks at the GUM clinic can test to see if you've been infected.

9. HPV does not give you cancer, but it causes changes in the cells it has infected, and it is these cells that can become cancerous.

10. In 90 per cent of cases, the HPV infection is clearly naturally by the body within two years. People who smoke are less likely to clear the virus.

HPV and oral cancer:

1. According to the NHS, around 25 per cent of mouth and 35 per cent of throat cancers are HPV-related. However, due to varying levels of smoking, other risk factors and means of testing, the exact figures are not known.

2. Types of HPV found in the mouth are almost entirely sexually transmitted.

3. According to the NHS, HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer is twice as common in men than women. It is also more prevalent in heterosexual men in their 40s and 50s.

The vaccine:

Here in the UK, girls aged nine to 15 years old are offered the vaccine, as well as women ages 16 to 26. Boys are also licensed to have the vaccine between the ages of nine to 15.

Researchers have said it will be many years before we see the immunisation programme showing a significant effect on cervical cancer rates, but advise everyone to accept invitations for cervical screening. It is also believed, but not yet confirmed, that the vaccine will help protect future partners from HPV-related oral cancers.

As part of the national immunisation programme, Gardasil is offered as it also offers protection against genital warts.

Share your thoughts with us on the debate over on Twitter, now.