If you’ve been on the internet over the past couple of days, you’ve probably seen Michael Douglas’s bizarre explanation for his throat cancer: too much oral sex. It’s not as far-fetched as it may sound; according to Douglas, his cancer was caused by an HPV infection that he picked up by, uh, intimate contact with a woman who had HPV. Before you panic, listen to what some local experts from Johns Hopkins have to say about the matter.
After a multicenter pilot study of 166 HPV patients, Johns Hopkins docs have concluded that spouses and long-term partners of people with HPV-related mouth and throat cancers have no increased prevalence of HPV infections. In other words, says Gypsyamber D’Souza, Hopkins epidemiologist, “While we can’t guarantee that the partners of patients will not develop oral HPV infections or cancers, we can reassure them that our study found they had no increased prevalence of oral infections, which suggests their risk of HPV-related oral cancer remains low.” Put simply: there’s no need for longterm couples to change sexual practices for fear of transmission. That’s probably because most of the nation’s sexually-active population has already been exposed to HPV.
But while the Hopkins study should reassure long-term couples, D’Souza warns that caution is always a smart bet with new partners. So while Douglas’ comments might be a little off base (he also claims that oral sex cured his cancer!), Bloomberg News points out that he might help raise the profile of the HPV vaccine, which was introduced in 2005. While 81 percent of female teenagers received tetanus inoculations in 2010, only 44 percent received the HPV vaccine.
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