Michael Douglas lied about the cancer, but not the cunnilingus

The actor revealed that he had cancer of the tongue, not the throat as he'd previously claimed

By Lindsay Abrams

Published October 13, 2013 4:53PM (EDT)

The question on everyone's minds, once again, is whether or not oral sex gave Michael Douglas cancer.

The 69-year-old actor claimed over the summer that his recent bout of cancer was brought about by a sexually transmitted infection: "Without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus,” he told the Guardian in a June interview. The particular he was referring to was stage four throat cancer, for which he underwent an eight-week course of chemotherapy and radiation treatments in 2010.

While we all might have been happy to forget that conversation ever happened, the topic was brought up again Thursday when Douglas, this time talking to the U.K. show This Morning, admitted that he had actually had tongue cancer -- a disease that, unlike throat cancer, could require radical surgery. As he was about to leave for Europe to promote his most recent film, Wall Street, Douglas said his doctor advised him to tell the press that it was throat cancer instead. "If we do have to do surgery, it's not going to be pretty. You'll lose part of your jaw and your tongue, and all of that stuff," Douglas said his doctor told him.

As Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams argued after Douglas' initial announcement, it shouldn't matter how he contracted his cancer. But for the record: according to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, HPV infects the epithelial cells, which cover not just the throat, but also the mouth, tonsils and, yes, tongue. So that part of his story still stands. Whether cunnilingus also helped cure the cancer, as Douglas claimed in June, remains a mystery.

Lindsay Abrams

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