Michael Douglas blames oral sex

Michael Douglas, the actor, has told the Guardian newspaper his throat cancer was not due to an excess of either alcohol or tobacco, as had been assumed, but cunnilingus. The fact that cunnilingus (and fellatio) can cause this type of cancer will have come as a terrifying revelation to many. Unfortunately, it’s true.

It’s all to do with the human papilloma virus (HPV) of which more than 120 versions have been identified. Some forms of HPV produce the warts on the skin of the hands and elsewhere that most people sometimes have. Most HPVs of this type are harmless and non-cancerous. The types that cause the vast majority of cervical cancers are HPV 16 and HPV 18. It’s HPV 16 which also causes the majority of sexually-linked oral cancers. They appear at the base of the tongue, the throat and the tonsils.

The good news is that this type of cancer is more susceptible to treatment than oral cancers caused by alcohol or tobacco, which is why Michael Douglas survived although his cancer was at an advanced stage when diagnosed.

The message is to take proper precautions to protect yourself. That means (a) don’t indulge in casual oral sex (b) if you’re a woman, have regular cervical checks, and (c) whatever your gender, if you’re having oral sex with partners whose health status you can’t be sure of, have annual screening for oral cancer. Here’s another thing. If you’re young, female or male, get the HPV vaccination. Lastly I’d say that if you’re in a monogamous relationship and you’re both healthy be appreciative of the tremendous pleasure you can take in all sexual techniques. Not everyone has that.

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