Could There Be A Link Between Oral Sex And Cancer?

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Studies seem to suggest so...

    Oral is one of the most enjoyable aspects of sex for many women, and we don’t want to scaremonger – but we feel it is our duty to report the results of a new scientific study.

    Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is commonly transmitted through oral sex, can increase the chances of contracting head and neck cancer by up to 22 times.

    The study, conducted by Dr Illir Agalliu and his colleagues, found that by 2020, head and neck cancer may replace cervical cancer as the main cancer caused by HPV.

    Published in the JAMA Oncology journal, the study was compiled after researchers looked at the mouthwash samples and healthy information of nearly 100,000 people.

    The news is surprising as previously, it has been thought that smoking and drinking causes head and neck cancers, but due to a spike in the diseases over the last 30 years in heterosexual males, experts were prompted to look for another explanation.

    “This study is important because it provides for the first time clear evidence that detection of HPV-16 in the oral cavity preceded the diagnosis of head and neck cancers,” Dr Agalliu said.

    Actor Michael Douglas said in 2013 that his throat cancer was caused by performing oral sex, telling The Guardian when asked if he regretted his years of smoking and drinking: ‘No. Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus.

    ‘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. And if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it.’

    He then told Event magazine two years later, in 2015, that he regretted any embarrassment caused by the comments to his wife Catherine Zeta Jones.

    ‘It was one of those things… and I so regretted any embarrassment that it caused Catherine and her family,’ he said, then addressing their temporary split in August 2013.

    ‘We had a little bump in the road. The problem in this business is that everything is so public. I love Catherine as much, more than I ever have. And hopefully the feeling’s mutual. We worked things out – if both people want to work something out and make it better, you can do it. You can’t do it if it’s just one person.

    He also spoke about his ‘ecstatic’ feelings after coming out of the other side of the illness.

    ‘I was just happy to be alive. I was ecstatic,’ he said. ‘It feels like a rebirth after you go through cancer and you come out of it. You feel like you’re a child. You see priorities differently. You have a much deeper appreciation of marriage, of your children – you see everything a little bit clearer, and a little brighter.’

    The good news is that although HPV is the most common STD according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can be prevented by a vaccine, with a 2013 study showing that vaccinations had resulted in a 56% decrease of new HPV cases in teenage girls.

    We’re not saying you should never have oral sex – but stay safe and get tested to make sure you’re both HPV-free first.

    Reading now