There has been a lot of news lately about the risk of cancer from oral sex, particularly after the interview where Michael Douglas, the actor , allegedly blamed this for his cancer.

So is he right? Well it is certainly a possibility. We know that smoking and alcohol are both risk factors for throat cancer. However more recently studies have shown that some throat cancers are indeed caused by a virus. The virus, HPV, is the same virus that causes other cancers such as cervical and anal cancers.

Oral sex is now widely practised and in most instances unprotected. Therefore the risk of picking up HPV, a sexually transmitted infection , has increased. Other factors that has lead to this increase is having multiple sex partners.

A recent study in America has shown that 1 in 15 Americans have HPV infection orally. It is around 3 times more common in men, mainly due to the higher levels of HPV in the female genial tract of an infected female.

In recent years there has been a three fold increase in in the diagnosis of oral cancers.

So, yes it is possible that he got infected through oral sex, although alcohol and smoking would have increase his risk.

It is important to note that just having HPV in the throat, doesn’t automatically mean you will get cancer, but it is prudent to be aware of the risk and see a doctor if you have any symptoms and if possible, to get vaccinated against HPV. In my opinion this is essential for all sexually active women and men.