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Great, Now Even Oral Sex Can Kill You

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

If doing this column five days a week has taught me anything, it’s that over a long enough timeline, everything you eat, and everything you do, can kill you. Nothing is sacred!

Case in point: Cunnilingus, a.k.a. going down on a lady, a.k.a. dining at the Y. Don’t let Petey Pablo in “Freek-A-leek,” or DJ Quik in “Can I Eat It?” scare you — giving head is the best. It’s one of the few things in the bedroom where a guy — or gal — can really take control of giving their partner an orgasm. There’s real technique involved, and successfully getting someone off feels like winning a gold medal at the Olympics.

But if you told me giving a woman head could eventually kill me, I’d laugh at you. Until now.

That’s right. Those assholes at John Hopkins have discovered that, thanks to the fact that 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and about 14 million people are infected each year, men who perform oral sex on at least five different women see their chances of developing head or neck cancer grow from a miniscule .07 percent to a whopping 7 percent, given the right set of circumstances. Smokers who have had more than five partners, for example, are at the highest risk, due to the compounded carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoke.

Luckily, those numbers are, relatively speaking, still pretty low, so you don’t need to give up oral just yet. And don’t go running out to get screened for an oral HPV infection either, says Dr Carole Fakhry, associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins:

“Currently there are no tests that could be used for screening people for oropharyngeal cancer. It is a rare cancer and for most healthy people the harms of screening for it would outweigh the benefits because of the problem of false positive test results and consequent anxiety.

“Our research shows that identifying those who have oral HPV infection does not predict their future risk of cancer well, and so screening based on detecting cancer-causing oral HPV infection would be challenging.”

But, if you (still) smoke, you can lower your chances for developing HPV-related cancers just by quitting. So knock that shit off.

A few other things we learned about our bodies today: