BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Michael Douglas is drawing worldwide attention after he revealed doctors have linked his throat cancer to oral sex and HPV, a sexually transmitted disease.
Mary Bubala reports doctors say it’s a growing concern for men.
While promoting his new movie, Michael Douglas started the dialogue about an entirely different subject–oral sex and cancer. But doctors are not surprised by the link.
The National Cancer Institute says 60 percent of all throat cancer is caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted disease contracted through oral or genital sex.
Sixteen-million Americans have HPV. Few though, see it develop into cancer.
“About 90 percent of people that are clearing the virus spontaneously via their own immune system and it’s that small percentage of people that have potentially the risk to develop that. And we are still trying to figure out exactly why,” said Dr. Michael Somenek, Union Memorial Hospital.
And the number of men affected is rising.
In fact, HPV-related throat cancers are now more common in men than cervical cancer, which is caused by the same virus in women.
Phillip Keen, 52, is recovering from tongue cancer, linked to HPV.
“I woke up one morning and felt a little bump on the side of my neck about the size of an M&M,” he said.
Phillip’s cancer is in remission. The cure rate when oral HPV is caught is high, at more than 90 percent.
And now there is an HPV vaccine, recommended for girls and boys.
“It is not only girls that they are recommending it for. The CDC is actually recommending it ages 11 & 12,” Dr. Somenek said.
The HPV vaccine is recommended before young people become sexually active.
Douglas said he was cancer free in January of 2011, after battling the disease for six months with radiation and chemotherapy.