• CNN – The lesson from Michael Douglas

    Me over at CNN:

    Michael Douglas made news recently by discussing, rather candidly, the possible cause of his throat cancer. Specifically, he told The Guardian that his disease could be caused by oral sex, which could have exposed him to human papillomavirus. Douglas clarified his comments later. But it is inevitable that debate would follow: HPV — and the vaccine that is meant to prevent infection — are surprisingly controversial.

    Go read!


    • Drat, I can’t find the reference, but I read an article somewhere an age ago that reported that the ratio of types of throat cancer was shifting from the alcohol + tobacco caused variety to the HPV caused variety, and that the two were quite different diseases, and diseases of different generations.

      I had a nasty case of “trench mouth” in graduate school, and the Yale Infirmary (incorrectly) decided that it was a Herpes infection and untreatable. I had the brilliant idea of taking it to a dentist (a Dr. Levy in New Haven; thank you, Dr. L!), who instantly recognized it as a bacterial infection that could be cleared up nicely with antibiotics. Which is to say, that by the early 80s, STDs of this sort were a recognized problem, but the cancer connection was noticed after that.

      In a related note, Japan has been a bit hesitant to get energetic and try to eradicate helicobacter pylori (infection with which is widespread in people over 60 or so here), but one town in Hokkaido tried it, and stomach cancer incidence went way down. Science really does work, at least some of the time.