As Sigmund Freud once said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." So what are the chances that Michael Douglas contracted throat cancer from the HPV virus transmitted via oral sex, as he announced recently, instead of from tobacco or decades of partying? He did appear on the cover of Cigar Aficionado (May/June 1998) when he was 53, puffing on his El Rey del Mundo, didn't he?
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral and pharyngeal cancers can develop from accumulative damage from tobacco use, alcohol consumption and persistent viral infections such as HPV. So it really is possible that a cigar-smoking, good-time Hollywood star did get cancer from the HPV virus. It can take years to incubate, and there are no FDA-approved tests to detect HPV infections in men.
The stats we do know: 42.5 percent of women have genital HPV infections, but less than 7 percent of adults have oral HPV infections. Also, nearly half of all throat cancers are associated with an HPV infection, as is virtually all cervical cancer. And tobacco use accelerates the development of this virus into a cancer.
We (and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have been advocating that every child 11-12 years old get vaccinated against HPV. Parents, we have a vaccination that prevents cancer! Get on it! And by the way, folks, on the way over to get the vaccination, tell your kids not to smoke cigars or cigarettes or fill their cheek with any of that thar chewin' tobacco.