Michael Douglas’s rep has said that now the actor doesn’t think that he got his throat cancer by participating in too much oral sex. So he backpedals on his previous statement? We wondered what on earth has caused the 180 degree turn around.
On Monday the Guardian Newspaper published an interview that the paper had conducted with Douglas who said that he’d gotten his cancer through the HPV virus from too much oral sex. The actor said, “without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), which actually comes from cunnilingus.”
The 68 year-old actor also said, “I did worry if the stress caused by my son’s incarceration didn’t help trigger it. But yeah, it’s a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.”
According to the actors spokesman, Allen Burry, Michael Douglas never said it was the cause of his cancer. Burry claims that the actor was merely discussing the various causes of oral cancer. Burry allegedly told USA Today, “Michael Douglas did not say cunnilingus was the cause of his cancer. It was discussed that oral sex is a suspected cause of certain oral cancers as doctor’s in the article point out but he did not say it was the specific cause of his personal cancer.”
But in the interview the conversation turned to the topic of HPV when Douglas was asked if he regretted his drinking and smoking habits in light of his battle with the disease. His response was that he did not, because in part it was caused by oral sex.
In light of Allen Burry’s claims to the contrary it does still sound like Douglas attributes his past “sexual practices” with contracted the disease.
Health officials, however, still maintain that smoking and alcohol are the main causes of oral cancer, but HPV has been linked to one type of throat cancer. Presumably, that is not the type that Douglas contacted.
But according to Dr Eric Genden, the professor and chair of Otolaryngology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai Hospital in New Your City, it comes as no surprise to him. Speaking to CBSNews.com he said, “This is not a surprise by any stretch. There’s an epidemic of HPV-related throat cancers.”
Throat cancer, also known as oropharyngeal cancer, refers to tumors that occur in the tonsils at the base of the tongue and the upper throat. Smoking and alcohol have always been an associated risk factor, but in recently there has been a rise in throat cancers related to the sexually transmitted virus, HPV.
HPV is an sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is transmitted by oral and genital sex.
The 2013 Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, performed by the National Cancer Institute, showed findings that stated that around 13,000 new cases of oropharyngeal in both men and women were linked to HPV in 2009. 2009 was the last year that data was available. More than 10,500 cases reported were in men. The report also showed that over 60 percent of throat cancer is caused by HPV.
The report also showed that there was an increase of HPV cases among white men and women.
Dr Genden said HPV-related throat cancers are now more common in men than cervical cancer, which is actually caused by the same virus in women. This type of cancer is more commonly found in younger populations.
Populations of adults who are between the ages of 40 and 65 which is a group that is typically younger than those affected by smoking-related throat cancers.
According to Dr Genden the people who are developing throat cancer now likely had gotten HPV more than 10 or 15 years earlier. Dr Mumtaz Kahn, a head and neck cancer surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, agrees with Dr Genden. He said, “It’s the norm now, unfortunately.”
With Allen Burry rushing to say that Michael Douglas has back-pedalled on the issue of oral sex not being the cause of his cancer, the actor must still believe that it was a huge contributing factor. Douglas was a self-professed “sex-addict” who has allegedly had counselling. With his, again self confessed, Satyre-like tendencies in the past, odds would seem that he’s right.
If that is true, than a lot of folks who like practicing in oral sex may feel a bit dismayed. But it is not all doom and gloom. There is good news as well as the obvious bad.
The good news is that not everyone with HPV will develop oral cancer. A 2012 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated around 16 million Americans had oral HPV which is about 7 percent of the country. The researchers of the 2012 study estimated that about 10 percent of men had oral HPV and that women had a lower percentile of around 4 percent.
Dr Kahn did point out that, overall, cancer is till more likely to be caused by smoking and drinking. Although HPV has also been associated with cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis and anus.
The good news is, that according to Dr Genden, 90 percent of people who are infected with HPV will clear it from their bodies within a year, but for the 10 percent with chronic disease, they are at a greater cancer risk. He said if you smoke and drink, there is some data that indicates that this will increase the risk of throat cancer who already have the oral HPV.
Dr Khan has more good news, he points out that HPV-related throat cancers have a high cure rate. Much higher than the stage IV equivalents of throat cancers caused by drinking and smoking. Khan said, “The good thing is the HPV-related tumors prognostically are far better than those related to smoking and alcohol.” .
In September 2010 while he was on the Late Night With David Letterman show, Douglas revealed that he had been diagnosed with advanced Stage IV throat cancer that August after experiencing throat and ear pain. He told Letterman that he had smoked and used alcohol.
In an interview with New York magazine, the actor said that he had been having health problems for nine months before he’d been diagnosed as having cancer and than he’d lost 45 pounds while he was ill. In Jan. 2011, Douglas said he was cancer-free after battling the disease for six months, with radiation treatments and chemotherapy.
Douglas was given the all clear in Jan 2011. He said in the interview with the Guardian that he had been clear more than two years and that he get a check-up every six months. He pointed out that, “with this kind of cancer, 95 percent of the time it doesn’t come back”.
As it stands right now there is not test available to diagnose oral HPV. There is an HPV vaccine that is now given to children as young as 11 that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cane be given until the males reach 21 years of age or the females reach 26.
For those of us who are a bit older than that, Dr Genden said it is important to recognise the symptoms. Dr Khan stressed that the importance of safe sex is very important and that those who do contact the disease, the surgeries are less invasive than surgeries for the disease in the past.
So while Michael Douglas’s rep backpedals for him on the issue of whether or not his throat cancer was caused by oral sex, it sounds as though Michael himself doesn’t have any doubts. If you were to ask him, he’d probably tell you to get a check up, especially if you’ve been engaging in “unprotected” oral sex.
By Michael Smith