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June 3rd, 2013
10:51 PM ET

Can oral sex cause throat cancer?

Three years after his diagnosis, actor Michael Douglas told  The Guardian that his throat cancer may have been caused by the human papillomavirus contracted through oral sex. His statement put the spotlight on a larger public health issue.

Smoking and drinking are also significant risk factors for throat cancer. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains that doctors can test to determine if there's a direct link between HPV and cancer.

"What they're searching for is DNA of the virus ... and if they find it, then they can almost definitively say that this was caused by the HPV infection."

HPV is thought to cause 1,700 oropharyngeal, or throat, cancers in women and 6,700 oropharyngeal cancers in men each year, according to the CDC.

For patients whose cancer was caused by HPV, Gupta says the prognosis may be better compared to patients who became sick from tobacco and drinking because they have a better response to the treatment.

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Filed under: Medical News
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    Keep in mind, if the rates of HPV are rising, then of course the rates of HPV caused typical "rate" of oral sex is staying the same by all men and women, then cancer caused by HPV would rise, just logically.

    June 8, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  2. Jan

    Odd...but if this were so true, doesn't it seem like almost every prostitute in the world would be having mouth and throat cancer? And probably 75% of all women if you get right down to it.

    June 5, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • bill

      I don't know where you get your numbers but 70% of women aren't doing this. Particularly one they get married.

      June 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  3. Shayne Turnbull

    That is screwed up how that happend it shouldnt of caused that problem it could of also been caused by smoking and drinking

    June 5, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  4. Heather Russell

    I work in the medical field. Vaccination against HPV is fairly new as far as vaccines go and was initially only recommended for girls and women ages 11-26. More recently it has been recommended for adolescent boys and young men, the primary reason being to protect their female partners. I think this personal testimonial from Michael Douglas will help bring awareness to young boys and their parents of the potential personal risk of cancer from HPV . I think this is a very good thing to be public about.

    June 4, 2013 at 12:11 am |