In a recent interview with The Guardian, popular actor and Hollywood star Michael Douglas announced that his recent throat cancer was most likely caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that can be contracted during oral sex. In the interview, Michael Douglas also admitted to drinking and smoking. These two factors have been linked to an increased risk for oral cancer in patients with oral HPV. His interview helped to shine the light on a men’s health trend that doctors have been concerned about for years. Cases of throat cancer in men have significantly increased over the last decade and many experts believe that this disturbing trend is being caused by oral HPV. In fact, The 2013 “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer” found approximately 13,000 new cases of oropharyngeal cancer in both men and women linked to HPV in 2009 (the last available year of data). Some experts even report that HPV-related throat cancers are now more common in men than cervical cancers in women. In addition to throat cancer, HPV can also cause other forms of cancer including cancers of the cervix, penis, vulva, anus and vagina.
The good news is that future generations may be protected from HPV-related cancers by the HPV vaccine. This vaccine is now made available to boys and girls as young as eleven through the time they turn twenty-one (males) and twenty-six (females). Hopefully, the combination of increased awareness and the availability of a HPV vaccines may help to reduce the number new HPV-related oral cancers in the United States and reverse this disturbing trend.