STANFORD (KPIX 5) — Actor Michael Douglas said in an interview published Monday that his throat cancer was caused by a virus he contracted by performing oral sex on women.
Doctors have known for some time that the sexually-spread HPV, or human papillomavirus, can cause some types of oral cancer. But the 68-year-old Douglas’ comments on his own situation have thrown a spotlight on a subject not often discussed.READ MORE: Mothers Tearfully Remember Children Slain In Bay Area Homicides
HPV is best known for causing cervical cancer and genital warts – but it also can be spread by oral sex, and men are more susceptible than women because it’s believed they have lower amounts of antibody protection against the virus.
“It is not one of the more common cancers, but (oral cancer from HPV) seems to be rising particularly among younger people,” Dr. John Sunwood, a head and neck surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center, told KPIX 5. “Projected numbers estimate that this will exceed the incidences of cervical cancers in the next several years.”READ MORE: Oakland Ties 2020 Homicide Total in First 9 Months of 2021
The Associated Press estimated about 2.5 million Americans currently have oral HPV infections, but only about 14,000 cases of that type of oral cancer are expected this year.
The virus is hard to avoid, experts noted to the AP since as many as 75 percent of sexually active men and women will be infected with it at some point. Most people clear the infection on their own within two years. Some, however, have difficulty ridding themselves of HPV – and in some instances, the virus creeps down through tiny fissures in the base of the tongue or in the tonsils to lodge deep in the tissue, which is where they can become dangerous cancers, according to experts.MORE NEWS: Advocates for Immigrant Rights March From Santa Rosa to Healdsburg
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