Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Did Oral Sex Really Give Michael Douglas Cancer?

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One of the most controversial at the same time as viral - no pun intended - posts on this site remain the ones about whether Nigerian men give oral sex, and what the bible says about oral sex between married couples. I've received emails, tweets, DMs and messages on Facebook calling me out, or asking me to carry on, lol. I have to say the first group are louder.

One of them sent me a link to this story in the UK Guardian about an interview in which actor, Michael Douglas, revealed that he believes that the cancer of the mouth and throat he recently was treated of was caused by his years of giving women oral sex.

Asked whether he now regretted his years of smoking and drinking, usually 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 cunnilingus."

Though I can clearly see how they're connected, I'm not a doctor. We should also bear in mind that Michael Douglas has a history of heavy drinking and smoking and previously gone to rehab for sex addiction. He and his publicist have also tried to retract his statements, though an audio confirms he did say what he said.

For my own information, I read this article in the Guardian UK which goes into more technical and medical details about the links between oral cancers and oral sex.

The world of sexually transmitted infections is being turned upside down by the growing popularity of oral sex. All kinds of infections usually considered in terms of genitals are increasingly colonising the mouth. Herpes, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and, yes, the human papillomavirus – which is implicated in cervical cancer and can cause genital warts – can be transmitted through oral sex.

Evidence of the link between HPV and oral cancer has been building for several decades. While head and neck cancers have been declining since the 1970s along with smoking rates, scientists have noticed an increase in a particular type of oral cancer. Known as “oral squamous cell carcinoma”, it is linked to the same strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer.

Prof Andrew Grulich, who heads the HIV epidemiology and prevention program run by the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, says that the majority of cancers in the back of the throat, the oropharynx in technical terms, are now caused by this virus. “Twenty years ago it was thought to be about 20% and now, depending on where you are, it seems to be 60-70%,” he says. This type of cancer is associated with having a larger number of sexual partners, and more oral sex, he says. “In terms of increased oral sex there’s solid data that an increasing proportion of people report oral sex than 20 to 30 years ago, especially for younger people.”

Older people who have oral sex are not immune. In 2010 a Taiwanese study noted the cases of two middle-aged couples, oral sex veterans with a history of more than 20 years of oral sex, where the wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer and the husband was diagnosed with oral cancer within a short period of time.

But it is not a simple case of “catching” cancer from cunnilingus. The human papilloma virus is so ubiquitous it has been found in the mouths of newborn babies. And while many sexually active adults carry the virus, very few will develop cancer.

Last year a review was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine asking Is Oral Sex Really a Dangerous Carcinogen? Let's Take a Closer Look. Psychologist Sara E Rosenquist noted the complexity of the research, including a Finnish study of married couples which found that husbands and wives often carried different strains of the virus in their genitals and mouths, and indeed had different strains of the virus from each other, and there was no clear link with oral sex.

She concluded that: “HPV should not be a cause for concern among monogamous couples with a rich and varied sex life, as long as the sexual system remains closed and other immune compromising factors are not present. HPV becomes a concern in the context of immune system compromise and infection persistence.”

As with all things sex, whether vaginal or oral, always remember to be safe and healthy. Women, do get tested regularly for your own sake and that of your husband who gives you some good loving. There is a HPV vaccine for girls, from the age of 13 I think, get it for your teenage sons too. Men also have to learn to stay with one woman at a time, and be on top of their health and good lifestyle game. When one is healthy overall, cancers and various diseases tend to stay away.


  1. Hollywood actor Michael Douglas has retracted his
    'cancer from oral sex' statement, after much pressure and threat of boycott from the pro-cunnilingus group TGIF (Tongues Go In First). This, according to their vice-president Dr. Innocent Lamidele. Lol.

    1. Lol! This is serious cause for concern. I personally believe that this will be a big deal if you have multiple sex partners are you are not monogamous. Throw in hygiene as well.

    2. oops *and you are not monogamous I meant to say.

  2. It's a bit mind boggling if STDs are being transferred between mouths and genitals. If it is going both ways, will the dating population need to wear some kind of mouth condom or get tested before kissing soon? Please no. I still remember the days before AIDS and the shocking realization that everyone suddenly had that now we had resolved the problem of stopping unwanted pregnancy with the pill, there was something even worse to be frightened about - you could die from sex. I would hate for kissing to suddenly get dangerous.

  3. Often times, women worry that giving oral will cause them to gag or do something else to turn off for the guy. While these concerns are normal, many Oral sex techniques are straightforward once you realize what a guy wants.


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