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Arts and Entertainment

Michael Douglas Says Oral Sex Caused His Throat Cancer

Michael Douglas (cinemafestival /
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Michael Douglas says cunnilingus was the cause of the throat cancer that he battled a few years ago.The Guardian asked Douglas, now 68, whether he regretted his years of smoking and drinking for causing his throat cancer. Douglas gave a "surprisingly frank" answer to the British paper: "No. Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus."

He added, "I did worry if the stress caused by my son's incarceration didn't help trigger it. But yeah, it's a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer. And if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it."

Douglas was diagnosed with cancer in August 2010. After seeing several specialists for throat pain, one finally discovered a walnut-sized tumor at the base of his tongue. Douglas went on David Letterman to talk about his diagnosis while he was undergoing the radiation and chemotherapy treatments that helped him beat the disease. He told Letterman at the time that it was drinking and smoking that caused his cancer: "This particular type of cancer is caused by alcohol and drinking."

So which one was it? Medical experts say that they have seen a rise in the number of throat cancers caused by HPV, particularly among men. In the US, more than half of the cancers in the area of the throat where Douglas had it are caused by HPV—and the rest are caused by excessive alcohol and smoking. People who have oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV tend to have a good outlook, which would explain why Douglas was so optimistic and said he had an 80 percent chance of survival, even though he was diagnosed with a stage-4 tumor.

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But a doctor who spoke with The Guardian said Douglas' claim that more cunnilingus would have any sort of medical value wasn't true (or, you know, it was a joke). British head and neck surgeon Mahesh Kumar, told The Guardian, "Maybe he thinks that more exposure to the virus will boost his immune system. But medically, that just doesn't make sense."

Even though Douglas is relatively healthy now, he said the cancer treatment was a "rough ride." He had to be on a liquid-only diet, and he lost 45 pounds: "That can really take it out of you. Plus the amount of chemo I was getting, it zaps all the good stuff too. It made me very weak."

He's been in remission for two years, and whatever kind of cancer it is that he had, he said that 95 percent of the time it doesn't come back.