The “Behind The Candelabra” actor says um, er, providing pleasure to women with his mouth caused his throat cancer, but evidence of that statement is not absolute. (CAUTION: We will be discussing sex in a clinical manner.)
It is being reported among most entertainment news outlets today that Michael Douglas’ recent bout with throat cancer was caused by his love of giving oral pleasure to women. Since entertainment news outlets aren’t really into stuff like follow up and tough questions, it comes off as medical fact. Hey, if Michael Douglas says so, we should all believe it, right?
That’s kind of like going to webmd.com for a diagnosis. Sure, there’s some level of credibility, but maybe you should have a real doctor take a look.
The theory Douglas and his doctor propose is that HPV, a virus that has been proven to cause ovarian cancer in women, may be the cause behind a spate of younger people contracting neck and throat cancers. Prior to this, only older men with histories of smoking and drinking had contracted the cancers.
Needless to say, studies that have provided a connection between the oral love and mouth cancers got tons of sensationalistic press a few years back.
First is the sex distribution of the cancers. Though the risks for the new oral cancer and its anatomic location have changed fundamentally, one epidemiologic fact has not. It’s still a guy’s disease, by about 3 to 1, same as ever. That raises the next point. Though The Daily Beast is a wholesome family website, one is compelled to make the following indelicate comment: it might be suggested that the introduction of HPV from a turgid penis to a tonsil or to the back of the tongue (cf., Deep Throat) is decidedly more efficient than movement of the same HPV off the female cervix, which no tongue engaged in cunnilingus ever could reach, or just the plain old vagina, then uphill along the 3 or 4 inches from tip of tongue to its base or to the nearby tonsils. This is a mighty far distance for a virus to travel.
….so, yes, sexual activity of some sort is a risk, but that’s the most that can be said. It is manly, I suppose, at least in a Hollywood way—or at least interesting PR—to cop to the cunnilingus charge. But the story, like so much that touches the silver screen, is just close enough to a truth to grab a headline and just far enough away to drive experts insane.
The writer of that Daily Beast article, Kent Sepkowitz, had written at length about the same connection in Slate back in 2011.
Is it possible that Michael’s lovely tongue led to his cancer? Yes. Probable? I don’t like the odds.
It gets weird when celebrities talk about medical issues and while I admire Douglas’ candor to get people talking about issues they normally wouldn’t, it can be more helpful if all the facts are placed upon the table.
Besides, you don’t want guys walking away from the discussion fearful of THAT, do you?