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Oral Sex & Cancer: Should You Go Down?

Oral Sex & Cancer: Should You Go Down?

Shannon Cottrell for LA Weekly

So can going down cause cancer? You better hope not, because it would be the greatest excuse ever for your partner to stay off his knees.

After Michael Douglas announced that cunnilingus was to blame for his throat cancer, it set off a storm of media coverage. We talked to an expert at UCLA who says it's not that simple:

In Douglas' case, it has been reported that he's done his share of drinking and smoking. Those activities can also trigger throat cancer, too.

Douglas insisted in an interview with the Guardian that "this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus."

HPV is also known as genital warts, and it can be passed from freak to freak via oral sex fairly easily.

Marilene B. Wang, a head and neck surgeon at the UCLA School of Medicine and expert in removing papillomas and selected malignancies, says drinking and smoking have been linked to a "vast majority" of throat cancer cases in years past.

She tells us "we cannot say that oral sex 'causes' throat cancer," but:

... In recent years we've seen an increase in a different type of oral and throat cancer, and these are human papilloma virus (HPV)-related cancers. This HPV virus is the same one that is responsible for genital warts and also cervical cancers. The virus is passed very easily during oral sex and that is thought to be the primary mode of transmission. In that sense, it is true that oral sex can result in the virus spreading between individuals. We do know that HPV infections in the throat can increase the risk of developing cancer, and the rise in HPV infections in the population seems to mirror the rise in HPV-related throat cancers.

So should you refrain from going down? Michael Douglas might be exaggerating his case for his own purposes. His appearance in Behind the Candelabra, the biopic on HBO, has him playing a super-gay Liberace.

Oral Sex & Cancer: Should You Go Down?

Shannon Cottrell for LA Weekly

How convenient to remind the world how straight he is (wouldn't want to be typecast).

Oral sex could be one of many factors in developing throat cancer, Wang says. But doing it with a lot of different people, especially if you drink and smoke and have genetic disposition for cancer, could tip the scales against you.

Wang:

... Oral sex with increased numbers of partners increases the likelihood of getting an HPV infection.

There are multiple steps involved in developing cancer, and different triggers along the way, including carcinogens from smoking, viral infections, genetic mutations, can all contribute to the development of cancer.

Watch your mouth. Just in case.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.