Michael Douglas says his throat cancer was caused by HPV, not smoking

Michael Douglas

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.

[From Guardian]

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.

Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas

Photos courtesy of WENN

 

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136 Responses to “Michael Douglas says his throat cancer was caused by HPV, not smoking”

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  1. Maria says:

    Apparently, there is an increase of HPV related oral cancers for men.

    Considering they’re the ones who spread it the most, asymptomatically, there NEEDS to be a test for them.

    HPV is the most common STI and no one talks about it, instead, it’s stigmatized and this is one virus that needs further studying/education. If you have the strain that causes dysplasia and are over 30, get your pap yearly, and an HPV test to check the strain you have.

    There also needs to be more emphasis on dental dams/condoms (some are solely for oral sex) as well.

    Maybe if enough men start getting cancer, we’ll get some more research, because at this point no one really cares that this hurts women mostly.

    • NYC_girl says:

      I have been told and have read that condoms don’t stop the spread of the virus, because it is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. I’ve gone through 2 rounds of being diagnosed with it – the second time I had warts which were easily treated. Both times the virus cleared. My best friend however has had abnormal paps and needed cervical biopsies. My doctor always uses Thin Prep for my paps. Initially I had to request this type of test, but maybe now it is the norm? Regardless, I would ask for it anyway:

      http://www.thinprep.com/info/why_pap_test.html

      Re the oral cancer issue, my dentist actually started testing me for it. I gargled with a mouthwash and then she examined my mouth and throat with some sort of UV light. I don’t know if this is effective for actual HPV.

      There is also info here re giving the shot to boys. I havent read much about these shots because I’m in my 40s and don’t have kids, but the cut-off age is 26.

      http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm

    • karen says:

      Can he infect his wife with it when they kiss???

      • NYC_girl says:

        I really have no idea about oral to oral but the fact that 90% of the population has it shows that it’s so easy to contract.

      • teehee says:

        Thats the first thing I thought about– this really needs to be screened for because the spreadability and even just the everyday-ness of kissing someone youre seeing, means that a large portion of us ALL could be carrying this virus in our mouth/throat and not know it!! And that is BAD NEWS… If it crosses from one area of the body to another, why would it not cross from the same area to the same area– actually, that happens to (genital-genital) so why not oral-oral?? eeeeeeee!!

    • teehee says:

      What I dont understand is how screening for this in the mouth.throat isnt regular by now, considering how the majority of people dont practice solely ‘normal’ sex, and given that this virus is spreadable, and, that this virus can cause cancer not just of reproductive organs by apparently any other tissue as well.
      Is it jsut social stigma, fear to admit what we all know, for whatever reason? Think of it, with the prevalence of this, especially in young people, who are completely in denial or unaware of the risks— it makes sense to me to create a screening for oral STD/STV/STI. at the very least, questionnaires should include a special section for ‘other’ sexual activity, and women should stop having to take all teh responsibility of getting screened for HPV of the cervix as if men didnt carry it, first of all, and as if that were the only area that harbors the virus. How many men do you know, who do NOT want or get oral- ie, jsut how widespread is it in the female population by now and then further transferred to all other men, etc— the converse of from men to the next woman as MD described….. the concept is stagerring.
      That aside, I am glad he spoke out abotu this, because this isnt something I knew about but now am aware of.

      • karen says:

        One of my male neighbors had sores removed from his tongue. His dentist found them when he went to have his teeth cleaned. He was sent to oral surgeons to have them removed and visited me with stitches in his mouth. (pukes)

        Today, I sterilize his coffee cup. And if he eats, I sterilize his utensils in hot soapy water. So sad… :(

      • Becky1 says:

        Just an FYI…if you have HPV it doesn’t mean that you will have it forever. A lot times the body fights off the infection. You can have a pap smear that’s positive for HPV in January and have one that’s negative for the virus in July.

        I’m an RN and I used to work in a women’s health clinic. One of my job duties was to review pap smear results and call patients with the clinician’s recommendations. I felt badly because a lot of the patients would panic when they heard they had tested positive for HPV. Yes, it’s a serious thing and not something to blow off but many, many women test positive for genital HPV at some point and most do not develop cervical cancer. It’s imperative that you follow your clinician’s recommendations for repeat testing and treatment but don’t panic.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Becky, I have heard that HPV can be dormant for long periods of time…but I heard this many years ago. Can a person be infected at say 20, and not show symptoms until 50 years old, meanwhile testing negative for the 30 years in between?

      • Lucrezia says:

        Tiffany – yes.

        Think of it like a cold sore. You have the virus, but most of the time your immune system keeps it in check, so you have no physical symptoms and the viral load is so small it’s undetectable (and non-contagious).

        Instead of being as rapid-cycling as a cold-sore, HPV tends to cause inflammation for months/years. So you have a decent chance of detecting a HPV flare in your biennial PAP smear. Still, being undetected for 10 years is quite believable: either you had a flare and cleared it between PAPs or simply didn’t have a flare. 30 years sounds a bit long though. Certainly possible, but unlikely.

  2. Christina says:

    that’s weird, I also got the three shots but it didn’t hurt at all…

    • nm says:

      Same, I got it at school about 6 years ago and I don’t remember me or my classmates being particularly bothered by it… weird.

    • Amelia says:

      Me too, I got the three injections when I was at school and it was just a normal pinch. Your typical injection, really.
      Ooer. Did they give us duds?!
      It’s comforting to know that even if it isn’t fully protective, I at least have some degree of coverage against cervical cancer. Long live cancer research!

    • Pixie says:

      I got it a couple of years ago in college, for me the second one hurt really badly (dead arm, woke up when I rolled on it, etc) but the others weren’t too bad. My little sister (12) just had the first one done at school and she was in heaps of pain with it. Very odd, because I know people that were fine!

  3. Maria says:

    STDs are still a topic that gets downplayed so much.
    especially in our modern culture where the media tries to convince everyone that cheating on your partner is normal and healthy and that you shouldnt tell them because then you might have to face the consequences of your actions.
    people still think getting pregnant or aids are the only two things that can happen to you and a drunken unprotected BJ after a club night is considered normal. (if the person lets you perform oral unprotected chances are pretty high you arent the first to do so with that person)

    btw there are new gonorrhea strains that arent cureable, so if you get infected with them you will have them for life.

  4. Anne says:

    I’m not sure whether to applaud his honesty or be totally grossed out with that image!

  5. Isa says:

    I think it’s a good thing he talked about it. I bet more people are awared of HPV now. I know I am.

  6. ruby says:

    Yep, those 3 shots were very painful for me as well.

    The problem with this vaccine is, exactly as you said, there have only been 6 year follow-ups, and since it’s performed on young girls most of them aren’t at an age where they want to have children yet… But there have already been reports of severe issues, including infertility.

    Personally I’m very wary of it now, and I’m not sure it was such a good idea for me. I would definitely recommend waiting a few years until we get more of an idea of the fallout from this vaccine.

  7. Thora says:

    So what percentage of the population have HPV-16? It’s something you need to know to get some perspective on this disturbing information.

  8. smee says:

    It’s cool that he’s raising awareness of this issue, BUT people may jump to the assumption that CZJ was the source of this……

  9. Sabrine says:

    Nothing to be really grossed out about. Most people indulge in this activity at some point or other.

  10. Joanna says:

    I think the hpv vaccine is a godsend. didn’t have it when i was growing up. i was exposed to hpv. so far, i’ve had precancerous cells in my cervix two times that had to be removed and several abnormal paps. i think due to the hpv virus. i worry that i will get cervical cancer down the road. i think all young women should get the vaccine.

    • polkasox says:

      Agreed – I’ve had to have a biopsy once & luckily just once – but I did test positive for HPV. It’s insanely common & a lot of times asymptomatic.

      • Fabgrrl says:

        Me too. I tested positive for HPV (the kind that clears itself up, tit was gone by the follow up). My husband was actually angry with me, like I was dirty or something, until his mother told him she had had it and that chances are I picked it up from him! He shut up after that.

    • DeltaJuliet says:

      Ditto here. Abnormal paps almost from the time I started getting them….biopsies, precancerous cells and cryocautery to “take care” of the problem. The good thing is, I went on to have two healthy children and I’ve had no issues since.

      I find the fact that no one ever noticed a little concerning. I worked for a periodontist 15 years ago and he was doing oral cancer screenings way back then. My dentist does it now. Did he just not go to the dentist for years or what?

  11. QQ says:

    Bah! Dan Savage has been talking about this for YEARS….

    And about vaccinating BOYS Too, not just girls( he had his son get the shots!)…..

    And about de stigmatizing HPV and Herpes since just about every sexually active adult pretty much gets exposed to it….

    And about people deciding what are acceptable levels of risk in the inherent act of having sex considering that any make or model male or female that doesn’t provide oral in this day and age is completely promptly and indubitable subject to getting dumped…

    So this is just gonna be an excuse to them dudes that are both horrendous at it and squeamish and Mysoginists about oral sex to come up with an excuse Not to perform with the same length ability and enthusiasm as they would expect us to LOL!

  12. Greenieweenie says:

    No lie. My aunt is an OBGYN and my uncle had this same cancer. It is brutal to treat, and she took the liberty of explaining to us how he got it. The skin in your throat/mouth/lips is very similar to the skin in your vagina! Get the vaccine, peeps. Even men.

  13. Greenieweenie says:

    To all the judgmental people about HPV vaccines, you vaccinate a 12 year old girl because she likely isn’t sexually active yet. You don’t wait until she’s sexually active to do it. You also don’t tell someone that the excruciatingly painful treatment for cervical cancer is just “the consequences” of having sex. Get a brain.

    • Bijlee says:

      Who is saying this????. I’ve been up and down this thread and haven’t found people saying this! There are consequences to having unprotected sex, but I don’t think anyone’s saying anybody deserves it though. just know what those risks are. They are a reality.

  14. Sandra says:

    A sister of a friend of mine developed throat cancer that was determined to be HPV virus connected. She is in her 50′s. We knew nothing about HPV when we were young and wild. I’ve been somewhat worried about this for the last couple of years..

  15. Aussie girl says:

    Great another thing that is ruined now :-( in all serious kudos to him from highlighting the issue 😉

  16. Aud says:

    I’d be very skeptical about any doctor who uses legal terminology [beyond reasonable doubt is not a medical phrase, it is used in criminal law, for goodness sake] to identify a causative agent. Not only is it bad science to report things this way, but it is way off.
    Yes HPV is scary, but Michael Douglas did smoke for years and years and, like his wife, probably sneaks a smoke every now and then. This overlap of variables alone does not automatically make HPV a ’cause’ of the type of cancer Douglas had.

    • Greenieweenie says:

      Smoking accelerates the development of cancerous cells. If you have the virus AND you smoke, the virus is exponentially more likely to develop into cancer.

    • Lucrezia says:

      It’s flat-out impossible to develop HPV+ oral cancer, without having HPV. (HPV- oral cancer is a totally different disease.) So it is definitely the root cause.

      However, 10% of men have an active oral HPV infection, and only a fraction of a percent of those develop oral cancer.

      Smoking and drinking would absolutely have increased his risk, along with any genetic susceptibility to oral cancer, stress, exposure to other toxins etc., etc.

      Also, smoking lowers the odds of successful treatment: you’re more likely to survive if you’re a non-smoker.

  17. Eleonor says:

    All of this made me think to the mail I’ve received weeks ago reminding me I have to get checked.

  18. Jacqueline says:

    He is so made-up in the last picture, it’s freaking me out. He had better be 100% certain that oral sex was the culprit, or there will be backlash for his sweeping statement.

  19. Dedrie says:

    Rude; Insult the wife.. her time is up..

  20. poppy says:

    there’s nothing like having multiple doctors misdiagnose you when, according to MD, it was clearly visible to the naked eye. smh

    i sort of wished he hadn’t mentioned the stress from his son’s problems. even if it is true. i would feel terrible enough having made my parents worry, to have embarrassed them -but to have the extra guilt of having a parent attribute the start of their cancer to your misdeeds is sort of guilt overload.

    i also don’t care that HPV is mainly pushed on women as their responsibility.

    • teehee says:

      Agreed– the responsiblity of sex and reproduction lands mostly on women, period- whether its protection or birth control or screening or even winding up with cancers from a virus that MEN carry and transmit….. its frustrating beyond belief.

  21. Ang says:

    Its been reported that Farrah Fawcett developed anal cancer from the HPV virus.

  22. Hipocricy says:

    STDs are downplayed big time and should be talked about shamlessly…. especially in western societies that tend to point fingers at underdevelopped countries’s national health problems and downplay theirs.

    My sis is a scientist. The last time she was invited to the AIDS annual day, like 6 years ago, it was established that while AIDS was still very high in subsaharian countries and mainly the southern part (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana), it was stable in Central Africa, on the rise in the western and eastern part and on the high rise in the US and in Russia, on the rise in Asia and east Europe…stable in western Europe bar.

    At that time data established that there were no less than one million of HIV positive people in the US including those who don’t know they have it.

    Can you beleive that in certain states the level of HIV positive matches western africa level ? That syphilis is on the high rise too because again, the culture of promiscuity promoted by the media who crowns the likes of Kardashian and others has made it cool to be sexually careless. Also the tritherapy available make people live for decades with the illness and give them a sense that it doesn’t kill them right away whereas in Africa it’s an immediate death sentense.

    That’s the main reason why people in here don’t care enough because there is always a cure that will make them live longer, so they will adopt risky behaviour in their sex life while having all the tools available to limit those risks.

    What would have been a great initiative is to re-activate those AIDS campaigns that were in full force 20 years ago. It would be great for young people who are the main risky group to be represented by a young star featuring in those campaign.

    They do it for fur, weapons, ect…they should do it for aids.

  23. Merritt says:

    A lot of people here are saying to get the vaccine. At the moment it is only approved for those who are under 26. If you are over 26 (and a woman) be proactive about getting a pap.

  24. lisa says:

    didnt he once claim to be a sex addict? i dont know that many people will assume he means cjz.

  25. Kas says:

    Am I the only person who, upon reading this type of story, immediately rushes over to see what wisdom Michael K. has barfed out at Dlisted??

    Never disappoints.

  26. T.fanty says:

    I love that most newspapers I’ve read this morning are running with the headline “C&nniligus Gave Me Cancer.” That’s going to give a lot of lazy men an excuse.

  27. tabby says:

    Wait! so you can get hpv without having sex, or getting the vaccine prevents u from getting hpv when you’re sexual active.

  28. lucy2 says:

    My first thought was TMI!!! But after that initial reaction, I’m glad he’s talking about it, it definitely is getting attention and raising awareness.

    I would venture a guess that heavy smoking and drinking didn’t help though.

  29. Madriani's Girl says:

    This is so far beyond gross, I don’t even know. The thought of this fossil having ANY kind of sex, NVM THAT kind, grosses me out. UGH!

    • teehee says:

      Oh get with it- just because a movie doesnt show it, and cosmo doesnt talk abotu it, it doesnt mean its not happening; do you expect to be abstinent once youve hit 50? I dont. Actually most people remain active to their last day- some even die in the process ;)
      The advertising industry has a lot to do with this fallacy that older people are not sexual simply because they are no longer labelled as sexy.

  30. phlyfiremama says:

    I would also be suspect of the MD that says a 57% correlation rate makes it THE agent for oropharyngeal cancer, vs. AN agent. Just sayin’~don’t forget who offers these MD’s huge incentives financially AND “educate” Dr.s by presenting their own faulty “research” on their own products.

  31. Runs with Scissors says:

    I also read that women need to ask for an anal pap test for HPV when they get their regular pap. Women (like Farah Faucet) are dying from anal cancer caused by HPV – even if there’s been no anal intercourse, the cells can still shed there. I understand it’s a common request now to ask for both tests at your annual.

    Boys need to be vaccinated too and I read it’s now covered by insurance.

    Dentists are now screening for mouth and throat cancers during a regular exam. Some dentists will simply look in your mouth and throat, I think my dentist does this. But good dentists will also have you gargle with something and look in your throat with a UV light to check for cells that appear. I think this is done annually with your check up since it can activate at any time. I’m gonna ask about this.

    The scary part is that studies have been done where they’ve shown that kissing can also spread the HPV virus to your mouth and throat, not just oral sex. A few friends are waiting to get their kids vaccinated since they’re not having sex any time soon, but they’re probably KISSING, so yikes.

    I know that even sharing drinks or lip gloss, or utensils can spread herpes, but don’t know about HPV.

    More and more older people are getting all of these cancers since the HPV virus can live in your body undetected for YEARS and slowing down of immune system or stress can cause it to re-activate. I always thought when I get to a certain age I won’t have to have paps anymore, guess I was wrong.

    This sh%t freaks me out!

    • Jayna says:

      Exactly. Farrah Fawcett’s anal cancer was sexually related. I remember thinking all for what, letting a guy have a thrill in the back door. No thanks. Although I don’t know for sure that’s how she got it, anal sex, but I had looked up anal cancer when I heard about her. I had never heard of anal cancer and that seemed to be the cause for it. It is scary with all these teens giving multiple guys at school blow jobs that they could be setting themselves up for HPV. I was shocked to find out I had it at 20 from my boyfriend of a
      year (my first sexual partner) who had no signs.
      I had cryosurgery to my cervix, but was too inexperienced to even ask more questions about
      it. I found out through an abnormal pap smear. I never had any more problems. It freaks me out
      reading these last several years being exposed to it can cause cervical cancer.

      • pamspam says:

        First, I’m sorry about what you went through and hope you’re doing fine now. But on another note, I’m kind of baffled by the sentiment that if a woman engages in anal sex, it must be for the sole enjoyment of her male partner. That’s just not the case. Maybe that’s not how you meant it, but that’s how I kind of read it.

      • LeeBlaylock says:

        Did Farrah ever come out & say that is what caused her anal cancer? If not, then we just do not know what caused it. Cancer can run in families and affect different parts of the body. I’ve had problems for years with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and constipation, and lots of anal tears due to that, I might someday have colon or anal cancer as well. Its been an ongoing struggle. I’d hate for people to sit around gossiping about me and going “she got anal cancer cause she took it up the butt”. And I am not saying there is any shame in having that type of sex, but I still wouldn’t appreciate people talking about my sex life that they actually know nothing about. Make any sense?

      • Janet says:

        Anal sex can cause all kinds of tears and fissures that provide easy entrance to a whole host of germs. I’ve never done it and never will. I don’t know what kind of injury oral sex could cause, though, unless somebody chomps down on the recipient.

    • teehee says:

      Oh thanks for the info, I didnt know this would be related to a dentist- I assumed this would have to be part of teh regular screening in a gyno or procto office. Hmm- interesting. This sort of info ought to be much mroe widely available and check ups more actively offered :/ Heck at least my gyno could have said what you jsut said, but why DOESNT he (and she, all the docs Ive seen)??

      • Runs with Scissors says:

        I think it’s just good old fashioned stigma attached to sex.

        If more doctors tested for things as a matter of course (do an anal pap with your regular one, and same with the dentist, do a thorough HPV screening with your dental screening) this wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, we have to be pro-active until it’s just as standard as the other tests.

        As the first poster Maria mentioned, unfortunately, these tests probably won’t become standard until more men start dying of HPV-related cancers. When it’s seen as a women’s issue, research and money is much harder to get.
        But they are becoming more common-place because people are speaking up and asking for them.

        Also, it would be GREAT if gyno’s could just do the mouth/throat exam all together with the anal and vaginal paps, then it would just be done. Maybe some do, I’m not sure…

    • karen says:

      See my earlier post!! My neighbor’s dentist found sores in his mouth during a routine teeth cleaning. Surgeons removed sores on his tongue.

      I sterilize his coffee cup and utensils when he visits.

      He is elderly, now 84. And has had sun spots removed as well. Could be related, I suppose.

    • Lucrezia says:

      @Runs with Scissors: the gargle stuff would be acetic acid (vinegar basically). Damaged cells glow white after you rinse with it.

      But it’s not a very specific check for oral cancer because your mouth cells naturally get more damage than your cervix. All the smokers – and anyone who had their morning coffee too hot – would show white spots.

      It’s one of those tests where a clear positive result is great, but even if you get a negative result there’s probably still nothing wrong with you.

  32. Nerd Alert says:

    Based on the information presented in the parent article, I wouldn’t trust this doctor entirely. He uses unusual terminology (reasonable doubt? not medical, legal) and says that 57% of people with this cancer have this strain of HPV.

    It’s important to note that based on that finding, they cannot conclude the actual cause of the cancer. Most doctors would tell you that it appears HPV-16 increases the chances of that kind of cancer.

    • Lucrezia says:

      It’s poorly reported (or possibly poorly expressed by the doctor), but the stats are not vague.

      There are 2 types of oral cancers: HPV+ and HPV-. You can’t get HPV+ cancer without having HPV. However, you can have a HPV infection and still manage to get HPV- oral cancer. The cancers are identifiably different; it’s not just a question of whether you have HPV, the HPV- and HPV+ cancers look/act different.

      The doc was simply trying to say 57% of oral cancers are HPV+.

      The really interesting stat is that it’s quickly changing over time. A few decades ago, most of the oral cancers were HPV-. Fewer smokers = fewer cases of HPV- cancer, but more oral sex = more cases of HPV+ cancer.

      • Nerd Alert says:

        I understand all that, trust me. It’s just that he said that his cancer was caused by HPV, and he just can’t know that. That’s how cancer works. You can know what contributes to it, what may be involved, what increases risks, etc. You can’t say for sure what the trigger is. Not yet, anyway.

        The possibility must be considered that simply having HPV makes the cancer grow differently, right?

        That is to say, an HPV+ cancer exists only when people have HPV, but you have to have the genes in the first place to get it, and there are other contributing factors as well. You can get cancer and be HPV+, but it could be an HPV- cancer. Cancer is more complex than STI’s, unfortunately.

      • Lucrezia says:

        I think we basically agree, and are just quibbling over terminology: in something that involves multiple factors, what do you call the “cause”?

        To my mind, HPV is absolutely the cause of a HPV+ cancer, because you simply can’t get it without having HPV in the first place. Same way having a prostate is the root cause of getting prostate cancer.

        But, just like having a prostate doesn’t automatically mean you get prostate cancer, having HPV doesn’t automatically mean you get HPV+ cancer. So yeah, there are definitely other factors involved (genetic susceptibility, stress, environmental toxins). If those are the triggers, then HPV status is whether or not the gun is loaded in the first place.

  33. teehee says:

    On a side note, there IS such a thing as a cancer being caused by one thign and not another- there are thousands of ‘kinds’ of cancers not just related to where th cancer grows, but the type of cancer cells and activity.
    So when he says it wasnt caused by smoking, that is totally true. But it also doesnt mean that smoking didnt increase or aggravate his risks or that it is even slightly healthy to begin with- both arguments are separate.

    My opinion comes from what I’ve seen- The grandfather of my stepdad has cancer which has metastisized (sp) and they tested the tumors in his lungs, and said it was “the wrong kind” and he didnt qualify to be treated with a new experimental therapy. As in, there are more kinds of cancers than we realize, and each one is caused by something else and needs to be treated with something else.

  34. april says:

    I applaud him for coming clean on what caused his cancer. It must have been embarrassing. This should be an alert for oral, cervical and anal cancers. Celebitchy, you’ve done an excellent job reporting this. Also I have read that oral cancer due to HPV is on the rise.

  35. teehee says:

    Another infuriating point: it is being argued, that since the occurrence of cancer in the prostate is rare from HPV, that its not advisable for men to get vaccinated. So— men shoudl run around, carrying and transmitting this to women who DO develop cancer as a rsult??
    THAT to me does NOT make sense, and I believe that this should be a vaccine first and foremost for men to have. “Its better to take the bullets out of the gun, than to shoot at a bulletproof vest”– ie, the same absurdity that is used in birth control, is applied in sexual-disease control, and it PISSES me off to no end!!!

  36. Kim says:

    The smoking also contributed to it and its ridiculous for him to say it didnt.

  37. moon says:

    All that virgin purity and pregnancy talk never deterred me. This, this I am genuinely scared. It’s like HPV is the new HIV isn’t it? It’s spreading like crazy through sex and we aren’t very sure about the vaccines, consequences and ways to get infected yet.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      HPV has been around a LONG time-it’s not anything new and it is not even remotely as painful and debilitating or as destructive as the HIV virus was when it first came about. They are not comparable. When HIV first hit, it was a death sentence, plain and simple. Additionally, the symptoms that manifested in an HIV sufferer’s physical appearance were heartbreaking and horrific to behold. HPV is something that anyone can have and you would not know. Many men and women have it and never show symptoms but you can live a long life and be perfectly healthy with HPV.

      We really need to start empowering ourselves through education about what HPV is. No need to have mass freak out over it, just something to be aware of when engaging in unprotected sex (along with the potential risk of other STDs, unwanted pregnancy, etc).

      The point is-if you’ve had unprotected sex and have not had the HPV vaccine, it is very likely that you have HPV and you may not even know it.

    • karen says:

      My pap smears are normal. Always have been. (crosses fingers)

      After this…I’m sticking to internet sex!!!

  38. yoyo says:

    The big pharma propaganda and lack of information from Doctors about the HPV vaccine is ridiculous. First as many have pointed out it has been rushed to a wide market with no-medium term visibility let alone long term visibility. How one can subject their teenage daughters to this is to me inconceivable. BUt I understand that in many cases it is not the parents fault because big pharma AND doctors do not give them all the facts to make the proper decision. They don’t know about the rush to market. They don’t know that it only protects against only a few strains, they don’t know that there are hundreds of strains that this will NOT protect them against, they don’t know that people react diffently to different strains, some people can clear certain strains others will develop various symptoms (mile to fatal). This vaccine is NOT any type of solution. The solution is education for men AND women , from teens to seniors because so few people know about this. Teach them that HPV IS an STD, that it can be asymptomatic for one person and deadly for another, that they have a responsibility beyond AIDS to protect themselves and their partners and that oral sex is NOT innocuous. This trivialization of oral sex as safe sex is baffling to me. You never hear about dental damns or condoms being used for oral sex- “ooh but it doesn’t feel good ” I hear them say-PLEASE! Then I don’t want to hear from you when you get an STD. Seriously. Get tested, NOT just for HIV, get tested and once you are tested and clear and in a committed relationship THEN drop the protections. Not before! Beyond Aids and HPV, Herpes is also a HUGE problem. Getting a “cold sore” as people call it modestly on your lips is one thing (and it’s bad enough to have this your whole life. If you are one of the lucky ones who don’t break out often good for you, for other folks who react differently it’s regular hell) -having it on your genitals is a whole different ball game. Sex ed needs to be reviewed AND not just for teens. With the number of people divorcing in their 40s-60s who have (presumably) have had the same partner for a decade or more these folks need to also have the information.
    The attitude of Big Pharma and Drs re: the HPV vaccine is irresponsible. Just wait for the lawsuits to start in 5 to 10 years just like they did with all the other “rush to wide market” medical discoveries that were not tested properly and fast tracked by the FDA eg depo-provera, vaginal mesh, avandia etc. The FDA does not protect consumers, the government doesn’t either, few doctors do, they are all subjects of the Big Pharma Lobbies. Watch the documentary “Escape Fire” it will open your eyes if they aren’t already open. (Btw this is not just true for the US the same happens in Europe , the only difference is we can’t sue them when it happens!)

    • Lucrezia says:

      2 major problems with the “HPV is an STD, so practice safe sex” approach:

      1) Unless it’s actively flared-up, it’s undetectable. So you can test clear, then test positive years later. An STD-check doesn’t guarantee safety.

      2) HPV is much, MUCH easier to catch than your general STD. It’s not just sex-sex and oral sex. It can be passed from hands to genitals too. Condoms don’t fully protect you (it can be present anywhere around the entire groin, not just the bit covered by a condom.) Some studies suggest it’s even possible to spread it by kissing (and so does common sense: if it can move from genitals to throat and back, via oral-sex, it should be able to move from throat-to-throat from French kissing.)

  39. Bella says:

    I think his wife needs to move over in the looney-bin!!!!!!!

  40. LeeBlaylock says:

    I am glad Michael Douglas is raising awareness about this issue.

  41. LeeBlaylock says:

    I have a friend who did not get pap smears for 10 years. She was around 50 years old & came down with cervical cancer. If she’d had a pap done even every 2 years or so, she might still be alive today.

  42. Janet says:

    A dentist friend of mine told me today his phone has been blowing up with calls all day long from hysterical women patients wanting to know if they gave their men throat cancer. One woman was yelling into the phone “Omigod, is he gonna die?!” My friend told me, I told her he’d probably die with a big smile on his face. On the serious tick, though, he said he never heard of any correlation between oral sex and throat cancer.

  43. Isa says:

    I go back to the doctor in two weeks and I’ve got a few questions for him now!

  44. Runs with Scissors says:

    The vaccine is shown to be as safe as any others commonly given to kids worldwide. It protects against the strains that cause cancer and genital warts. It will save countless lives.

    The supposed safety risks of this vaccine are coming mainly from religious “abstinence only” groups who fear that it will encourage premarital sex. Looks like the religious propaganda over this vaccine by conservatives is taking a toll –

    http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/03/18/parents-worries-about-hpv-vaccine-on-the-rise-study

    Defusing the War Over the “Promiscuity” Vaccine – Time Magazine:

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1206813,00.html

    Guess they’re more worried about their kids having sex than getting cancer.

    Parents should be vaccinating their SONS as well as daughters, as this post makes apparent.

  45. Jade says:

    ugh stds don’t case cancer!!!!!

    • Jch says:

      That’s not true at all. Cervical cancer is caused by hpv. Hence the big push for the vaccine (never mind the controversy). Cancer researchers are looking into more & more types of cancer being caused by viruses. There is not one cause of cancer & there is a lot we do not know about cancer.

  46. Patrice says:

    So glad to hear you took your daughter Bedhead! That’s being a good, responsible mama :D I can’t stand the people who claim that getting taking girls for the shot will “encourage” sex in teens. Guess what? Teenagers are going to have s*x anyway, no encouragement needed!! Getting your teenaged daughter vaccinated against a potentially life threatening sexually transmitted disease isn’t going to change that. Ugh. *End rant*

    • Renee says:

      PS I know a woman who refused to vaccinate her kids. One of them contracted an illness that could easily have been prevented with vaccination. The child nearly died and is now deaf.

      • Janet says:

        These young parents — and a lot of young doctors — have never seen the possible side effects of ordinary childhood diseases. They have never seen a child gone deaf from measles or brain-damaged from chicken pox. The risks of developing side-effects are extremely small, but with the vaccine they can be eliminated entirely. When I was coming up, summer time was polio season and every parent was terrified of their child coming down with it. I’ve seen kids permanently crippled from polio. After the Salk vaccine, polio was relegated to the history books.

        Thirty years ago I saw a pair of twins born blind, deaf and retarded because their mother, who had never had rubella or been vaccinated against it, contracted it during her first trimester.

        I get furious with these parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, thereby putting other children at risk, because they think the vaccines cause autism. There has never been any demonstrable link between autism and the vaccines, and the doctor who first put that bullshit out there has been discredited as a quack and had his license yanked.

      • jwoolman says:

        And the two year old brother of a friend of mine died as a direct consequence of a vaccination… I also once translated an article that was the most depressing job I ever had: a medical journal article relating the case of a happy, healthy toddler whose organs started to break down, one by one, after a standard set of vaccinations. She didn’t survive, although they tried for quite a while to help her.

        Really, there is risk from any vaccination. At some point, the recommendation becomes not to vaccinate because the risk from that is higher than the risk of getting the disease. Your genetics determine how high your personal risk, but that’s hard to quantify.

        One way to reduce risk is to avoid multiple vaccinations. If you can, space them out one by one. This is true for pets as well as children. Avoid vaccinating too young when possible. I find the huge list of vaccinations now required for school entrance very worrisome. More than 30 the last time I looked at it. Back in the 1950s, we only had a handful. We don’t have the kind of certainty required to know what we’re doing about such things. Long term effects on the immune system from overvaccination may be a factor in other growing health problems.

        Even veterinarians are seeing more and more health problems in pets that are strongly suspected to be connected with too frequent vaccinations, even though problems after such vaccinations are highly underreported. It would be much safer to require antibody testing for something like rabies rather than assuming every animal needs another jab every year. There is a nasty cancer in cats occurring at the vaccination site, although it’s thought that the adjuvant used is the major culprit. For years, it has been recommended to administer that vaccination in the leg rather than the shoulder-since if the cancer develops at the injection site, the leg can be amputated…

        So don’t be too quick to assume someone is being stupid when they don’t want vaccinations. It’s a complicated issue with no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to make your own decision and respect the decisions of others.

  47. Renee says:

    My daughter had the HPV shots at 11 or 12 and they were no more painful than any other shot. I can’t imagine there being a vaccine available and me denying it to her. I remember asking her Dr about whether she should have the chicken pox vaccine when she was little because of concerns that were being raised at the time. He said he totally understood but he could not guarantee that if she did contract chicken pox there would be no complications. They can happen. How could I have lived with myself had I refused to vaccinate her and some awful complication arose as a result of her contracting the disease?

  48. Mrs Odie 2 says:

    I think that it’s possible MD is in denial. He’s blaming his throat cancer on the thing he did for maybe a few minutes here and there a few times a week or less and not the smoking and drinking he did daily and excessively for decades?

  49. LiPreng says:

    The specific strain he has IS supposed to be caused by oral sex. Crazy.

    Can I just say that I’ve been visiting here on the reg for a couple of years, but I have never posted before. I am seriously so encouraged by all of the messages on this subject. I’ve never seen so many intelligent women in one place!

  50. Amy says:

    The HPV shots hurt me. The first one I can’t remember any pain but the second and third ones did hut a lot. That surprised me because the first one hadn’t hurt at all and I am usually pretty stoic when it comes to shots. No tears, just surprise that the shots really stung.