The upshot of his statement was that he’d contracted the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is an infection most commonly associated with a woman’s vaginal area. And, it’s known to cause cancer.
But can the virus be transmitted through oral sex and can it exist in the human throat?
Douglas’ longtime spokesman clarified the actor’s remarks. “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,” he told USAToday. “He did not say it was the specific cause of his personal cancer.”
Douglas went through eight weeks of chemotherapy in 2010 and was able to beat the disease, even though it was a stage four cancer when it was discovered.
According to medical experts tobacco and HPV are the leading causes of oral cancers. Douglas was not specifically diagnosed with HPV, which now causes far more cases, Lori Wirth, director of head and neck oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital told the newspaper.
HPV has been linked to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and head and neck and also causes genital warts, according to Wirth. The body’s immune system is capable of shedding HPV, just like the flu, common cold and other viruses.
But in some instances the virus persists and can eventually lead to tumors.
There is good news, however; new vaccines can prevent cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers and the HPV strain that causes genital warts. The shots are recommended for both boys and girls, age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.