June 4, 2013 ( – Famed actor Michael Douglas has caused a stir by admitting publicly what medical researchers have said for years: that most throat cancers, most probably including his own, are caused by the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV), a pathogen that is spread through oral-genital contact. 

Douglas’s wince-inducingly candid words about the matter were uttered on Sunday, when a reporter for Britain’s Guardian newspaper asked Douglas if his throat cancer hadn’t been caused by years of smoking and drinking.

“No,” responded Douglas, “because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus.” 


“I did worry if the stress caused by my son's incarceration didn't help trigger it,” added the actor. “But yeah, it's a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.” 

Although Douglas’s handlers yesterday attempted to deny that Douglas had attributed his illness to the sexually-transmitted virus, the Guardian responded by making part of the audio track of the recorded interview available to the public, indicating that Douglas had indeed said what the newspaper reported. 

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Although Douglas did not indicate if he had had a test for HPV following his diagnosis, such testing is often undertaken, and would have settled the matter had Douglas had any doubts. 

As reported in 2011, about 64 percent of head and neck cancers are now caused by HPV in the United States, followed by other more conventional causes such as smoking, chewing tobacco, and excessive drinking.  The rate has risen to seventy-five percent in Canada. 

“When you compare people who have an oral infection or not … the single greatest factor is the number of partners on whom the person has performed oral sex,” said Dr. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 2011.  Gillison reported oral cancer increased 225 percent from 1974 to 2007, mostly in white males. 

Although avoidance of oral-genital contact would virtually eliminate the spread of oral HPV, which appears predominantly in males, researchers linked to pharmaceutical companies such as Merck have been using the rise in oral cancers to promote the approval of the controversial HPV vaccine for boys as well as girls.  

The vaccine, which has not been proven to be effective in halting the disease in boys, hasbeen associated with a total of 71 reports of death as of September 15, 2011, according to the US Centers for Disease Control Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), including  57 reports among females, 3 among males, and 11  of unknown gender.