Health

Thanks to Michael Douglas, We're All Talking About Oral Sex Today

But can it really cause cancer?

Michael DouglasenlargeMichael Douglas
If you've been living under a Twitter-free rock for the last 12 hours, you might have missed The Guardian's interview with Michael Douglas, which is not-so-subtly titled "Michael Douglas on Liberace, Cannes, Cancer, and Cunnilingus."

About three-quarters of the way through the story, the author asks Douglas if he regretted his years of cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption after being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010. "No," he responded. "Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes from cunnilingus."

Say whaaaat, Mr. Zeta Jones?

A tornado of news coverage followed -- including a "New York Post" headline reading "Michael Douglas: Oral Sex Gave Me Cancer" -- and now there's endless speculation about whether Douglas is right.

Well, as it turns out, he's spot on. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 63 percent of the estimated 11,726 cases of oropharyngeal cancers diagnosed each year in the United States are thought to be caused by HPV (source: nbcnews.com). And it's not just throat cancer -- HPV is known for causing cervical cancer, and it's been linked to cancer of the penis, mouth, tongue, and anus, as well.

While this may seem like just a juicy story to sex-up your Monday, it also offers some great reminders. First, that all sex -- oral included -- should be protected unless you're in a monogamous relationship. Second, it puts the HPV vaccine back in the spotlight and might have more parents vaccinating both girls and boys. Finally, it's a good reason to finally go to the doctor! Get tested for STDs, get screened for cancer, stop neglecting your health. After all, not everyone bounces back from stage 4 cancer like Michael Douglas.

More health news: Female Viagra!

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