Over this past week well-known actor Michael Douglas has made quite a splash in the media with his confession that he has throat cancer which he believes may have been caused by HPV and oral sex. With his confession there has been so much mis/information that has come out about HPV and whether or not Michael Douglas was really able to get an oral cancer from performing oral sex on a woman, presumably not his wife – reportedly she doesn’t have HPV. Putting the gossip aside, this Sexy Saturday article will address the issue of oral cancer and HPV infection with the understanding that the sexiest thing about HPV is knowing enough about it to prevent it.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a viral infection with more than 100 strains that may potentially affect the genitals or throat. Of the more than 100 strains of HPV some of these may lead to genital wart infections while others may lead to dysplasia and various cancers including cervical, vaginal, penile, anal, and oral cancers infecting the throat, tongue, and/or tonsils. HPV is found in bodily fluids such as saliva, semen and genital secretions of both males and females making transmission through oral sex totally and completely possible. Michael Douglas may be right as it is entirely possible that he did get oral cancer from eating an HPV infected vulva.
Recent studies have identified HPV type 16 as a culprit in most cervical cancers and now in oral cancers as well. As it turns out the moist tissues of the mouth, vagina, and cervix are similar and this particular type of dysplasia causing HPV is highly attracted to such tissue. Dysplasia is not cancer itself, but refers to abnormal cell changes that often lead to cancer(s).
HPV is a pretty common infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 2,300 new cases of HPV related oral cancers are diagnosed annually in women, while men are diagnosed more often with over 9,300 new cases annually. White men are more likely to be diagnosed with HPV related oral cancers than are non-white men and women in general. Bad news for college students and others who like to drink as drinking and smoking cigarettes is associated with increased risk of oral HPV transmission. With this in mind, think twice about dining at the “Y” without a bib – especially if you’re under the influence of alcohol.
Unfortunately, there is no standard medical test to detect HPV, however, you can screen for cell changes which may be indicative of HPV. In some cases abnormal cell changes, or dysplasia, may be seen using a high-powered microscope. More often than not, oral cancers are found in the back of the throat. If you notice any new lumps in your throat or neck, or if you think there’s a chance you may have contracted an oral HPV, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your primary care provider to be assessed. If you’ve completed the 3-series HPV vaccine treatment you may be immune to the types of HPV likely to cause oral cancers. In a later article, I’ll write all about other types of HPV and vaccine options. Until next Saturday…
Keep it safe ‘n sexy,
Ms. Robin, the Sex Goddess
Have a topic or question you’d like me to address in a future Sexy Saturdays article? Send it to me at RMills@sexucation.org.
 http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/headneck.htm. Accessed June 7, 2013.