HPV Oral Cancer Epidemic in Men

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HPV oral cancer

HPV can be “transmitted from fingers, saliva, genitalia. Any kind of intimate physical contact….” – New York Daily News

It is well-known that HPV causes cervical cancer in women.

However, many do not know that HPV can also cause head and neck cancers in men.

“The number of men who develop oral and throat cancers from an HPV infection has increased over the past several decades to “epidemic” status.” – Dr. Eric Genden, Mount Sinai Hospital (1)

Oral cancer can affect anyone, even famous actors like Michael Douglas. Get details of his story in the article, “Michael Douglas: Oral sex caused my throat cancer, not smoking or drinking.” (Daily News, June 02, 2013) (2)

michael douglas and HPV

Dr. Eric Genden, professor and chair of otolaryngology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital said: “The possibility that Michael Douglas’ throat cancer, which the actor was diagnosed with in 2010 and overcame more than two years ago, was caused by HPV is not a blip on the radar. This is something that should be a discussion point to make people aware of their risk.”

Head and neck cancers (which include throat cancers) account for 7% of all new cancer cases identified each year. (Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 2009) (3) Additionally, over 70% of those are caused by HPV. (International Journal of Cancer, 2011) (4) This means that 1 out of 20 head and neck cancers in men, every year, are caused by HPV.

A very slight “up-side” to HPV caused mouth and throat cancers is a higher survival rate than for those who have a mouth or throat cancer unrelated to HPV infection.

For example, as Dr. Rotnáglová and colleagues wrote, “Patients with HPV-positive TC (tonsillar cancer), thus, may benefit from a different, possibly less aggressive, treatment regimen.”


(1) Miller, T. “Oral cancers from HPV such as Michael Douglas’ are ‘epidemic’ among men, but preventable through HPV vaccine: experts” Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2013

(2) Monde, C. “Michael Douglas: Oral sex caused my throat cancer, not smoking or drinking”Updated: Monday, June 3, 2013 New York Daily News

(3) Dr. D. Max Parkin MD, Mr. Freddie Bray, Mr. J. Ferlay and Dr. Paola Pisani PhD “Global Cancer Statistics, 2002” Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009 CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

(4) Eliška Rotnáglová, Ruth Tachezy, Martina Saláková, Bohumír Procházka, Eva Košl’abová, Eva Veselá4, Viera Ludvíková, Eva Hamšíková and Jan Klozar “HPV involvement in tonsillar cancer: Prognostic significance and clinically relevant markers” Article first published online: 13 APR 2011 International Journal of Cancer

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