There is no proven correlation between oral sex and throat cancer says Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan. Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday by phone, Khan said as far as he had read no one had proven a direct correlation. He did not rule out the possibility but said: “The HPV virus has been shown to be an initiator of a lot of cancers.” The issue of the human papillomavirus (HPV) was raised once again when actor Michael Douglas was quoted in a June 2 UK Guardian interview as saying his throat cancer was a result of HPV.
The report said the actor revealed his form of throat cancer was caused by the virus rather than smoking and drinking. Douglas was also quoted as saying: “I did worry if the stress caused by my son’s incarceration didn’t help trigger it but, yeah, it’s a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.” In the report, a consultant head and neck surgeon in London, Mahesh Kumar, said in recent studies 57 per cent of patients with oral cancer were found to be HPV-16 positive. However, Kumar expressed scepticism at Douglas’ statement that his cancer was caused solely by the virus. “It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the HPV type 16 is the causative agent in oropharyngeal cancer,” the article quoted Kumar as saying. Douglas’ representative, Allan Burry, however, in a USA Today article published yesterday said although the Guardian headline read “Michael Douglas: Oral Sex caused my cancer,” that was not what the actor said.
“Michael Douglas did not say cunnilingus was the cause of his cancer. It was discussed that oral sex is a suspected cause of certain oral cancers as doctors in the article pointed out but he did not say it was the specific cause of his personal cancer,” Burry was quoted as saying. An Associated Press online report said: “The virus, HPV, is best known for causing cervical cancer but experts say it is also a growing cause of certain types of oral cancer, those in the upper throat—specifically at the base of the tongue and in the tonsils. Studies suggest that HPV can be blamed for 60 to 80 per cent of those cancers.” A Johns Hopkins University researcher, Dr Sara Pai, quoted in the article, said a small Baltimore study found men accounted for 85 per cent of HPV-related oral cancers and advised men and women to abstain from oral sex if their partner had an HPV infection.
Khan, when asked about the cause of the majority of throat cancer, said it had been associated with active and passive smoking. He added, however, that there could be a causal link between oral sex and throat cancer. The ministry last year introduced the HPV vaccine for prepubescent girls but the minister initially said the vaccine would not be given to boys. However, the ministry has begun to reconsider its stance. Khan said the vaccination process would restart when school reopens. Vaccination for boys, he said, was not definite as yet. Although Khan was unable to give figures as to how many girls have been vaccinated so far, he said the ministry was aiming to vaccinate 6,000 girls in the first year of the programme, which was launched in January.