Michael Douglas is still promoting Behind the Candelabra, and in doing so, he spoke with the Guardian. Somehow, the topic of discussion shifted from the movie to Michael’s battle with throat cancer that ended in victory in 2011 after he survived a stage-four prognosis. To be certain, the issue is a complicated one, but in a nutshell, Michael puts forth his belief that his cancer was directly caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, which he contracted in his mouth after going downtown on an infected woman. Who was the infected woman? It doesn’t really matter. The Guardian points out that there are over 100 strains of HPV (some causing warts and others being asymptomatic), and 90% of sexually active people will be exposed to at least one strain during their lifetime. Some strains are strongly correlated with the later development of cancer, and some are not. Michael’s particular strain, type 16, is one that is strongly correlated to oral and throat cancer. However, the issue is muddled a bit by Michael’s decades of hard liquor and cigarettes, which are also risk factors. Here’s what Michael himself had to say:
Basic Instinct star Michael Douglas has revealed that his throat cancer was apparently caused by performing oral sex.
In a surprisingly frank interview with the Guardian, the Hollywood actor, now winning plaudits in the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, explained the background to a condition that was thought to be nearly fatal when diagnosed three years ago.
Asked whether he now regretted his years of smoking and drinking, thought to be the cause of the disease, Douglas replied: “No. Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from c*nnilingus.”
Douglas, the husband of Catherine Zeta Jones, continued: “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. And if you have it, cu*nnilingus is also the best cure for it.”
The actor, now 68, was diagnosed with cancer in August 2010, following many months of oral discomfort. But a series of specialists missed the tumour and instead prescribed antibiotics. Douglas then went to see a friend’s doctor in Montreal who looked inside his mouth using a tongue depressor.
“I will always remember the look on his face,” Douglas has previously said. “He said: ‘We need a biopsy.’ There was a walnut-size tumour at the base of my tongue that no other doctor had seen.”
Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with stage four cancer, which is often terminal, and embarked on an intensive eight-week course of chemotherapy and radiation. He refused to use a feeding tube, despite his palate being burnt on account of the treatment, and so lost 20kg (45lb) on a liquids-only diet. “That’s a rough ride. That can really take it out of you,” he told the Guardian. “Plus the amount of chemo I was getting, it zaps all the good stuff too. It made me very weak.”
The treatment worked and Douglas is now more than two years clear of cancer. He has check-ups every six months, he said, “and with this kind of cancer, 95% of the time it doesn’t come back.”
The cause of Douglas’s cancer had long been assumed to be related to his tobacco habit, coupled with enthusiastic boozing. In 1992, he was hospitalised for an addiction which some at the time claimed to be sex. Douglas himself denied this and said he was in rehab for alcohol abuse. He has also spoken of recreational drug use.
The Guardian goes on to quote a leading London surgeon, Mahesh Kumar, who points out that 57% of oral cancer patients are HPV-16 positive: “It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the HPV type 16 is the causative agent in oropharyngeal cancer.” However, the surgeon doesn’t understand why Michael seems to believe that continuing to go downtown is somehow “the best cure” for oral cancer. Yeah, that makes no sense at all. Maybe Michael just wants to justify his continued desire to keep his tongue busy, and I’m sure that Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn’t mind.
No matter how one frames it, HPV is a scary subject, and just last year, I took my tween daughter to get the series of three shots. She cried with each one and said that they’re the most painful shots that she ever had (the nurse verified that the vaccine feels like “an explosion” in the arm). But I feel better knowing that she’s at least somewhat protected now even if the CDC admits it doesn’t really know how long the vaccine remains effective (they’ve only done post-vaccine studies up to six years so far). Still, some degree of protection is better than nothing at all.
Photos courtesy of WENN