Michael Douglas blames his throat cancer on HPV virus

Michael Douglas Photo: Pool/ABACA/Press Association Images

Hollywood actor Michael Douglas has reportedly said his battle against throat cancer was caused by a sexually transmitted disease.

The 68-year-old is said to have claimed his stage-four cancer was contracted through the human papilloma virus (HPV) during oral sex.

He told the Guardian: "Without wanting to get too specific this particular cancer is caused by HPV."

"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", he added.

However, Douglas' claim that oral sex is also the cure for the cancer was disputed by doctors, the paper said.

What is Human papilloma virus (HPV)?

  • HPV is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body, for example, in your cervix, anus, mouth and throat.
  • There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 40 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.
  • Infection with some variants can cause abnormal tissue growth and it has been linked to cervical, oral and other types of cancer.

Source: NHS Choices

According to Cancer Research UK, mouth and throat cancers have been especially linked type 16 of the human papilloma virus.

HPV infection of the mouth is more common in men than in women. The risk of the infection in the mouth and throat is linked to certain sexual behaviours, such as open mouth kissing and oral sex.

Smoking also increases the risk of HPV infection in the mouth.

Michael Douglas with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones
Michael Douglas with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones Credit: Ian West/PA Wire

Douglas, who is married to Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, said that after "a rough few years" he is "back with a vengeance" and feels "blessed and fortunate to even be alive".

The actor's latest film sees him playing the late flamboyant performer Liberace, in Behind The Candelabra.

Douglas recently described the role as a "beautiful gift" after his battle with cancer and said he was "eternally grateful" to the film's director Steven Soderbergh.