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Earlier this month, Jamie Dimon–JPMorgan Chase’s chairman, president, and CEO–was diagnosed with throat cancer. In a memo, the executive seemed to be in good spirits and said he would undergo eight weeks of treatment at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital:
“The good news is that the prognosis from my doctors is excellent, the cancer was caught quickly, and my condition is curable. Following thorough tests that included a CAT scan, PET scan and a biopsy, the cancer is confined to the original site and the adjacent lymph nodes on the right side of my neck. Importantly, there is no evidence of cancer elsewhere in my body.”
Thankfully, Dimon seems to have caught his condition early and is receiving the proper treatment, but one has to wonder how he could have gotten such a disease. Smoking is the leading cause of throat cancer; however, while in his younger years, Dimon was notorious for bumming cigarettes off his colleagues at American Express, the now 58-year-old executive quit smoking in the early ’80s. He traded in cigarettes for a rigorous exercise and cardio regimen. Drinking hard alcohol is another way to get the disease, but Dimon was never a heavy drinker.
This brings us to the third most common cause of throat cancer: human papillomavirus, or HPV.
“It wouldn’t be unusual,” says Eric Genden, chief of head and neck oncology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “This is an epidemic.”
According to data from 2008, which was the last time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study on head and neck cancers, they estimated that 2,370 women and 9,356 men developed HPV-caused head and neck cancer. These cases made up about a third of the cases of head and neck cancer that year. Now, according to Dr. Genden, 70 percent to 90 percent of head and neck cancer cases worldwide are caused by HPV, and the American Cancer Society estimates that this year, there will be 42,440 cases of head and neck cancer in the U.S.
How are men getting HPV? Well, to put it bluntly, most of them are getting it from performing cunnilingus on a female partner. Researchers estimate that the number of men with throat cancer caused by HPV will soon eclipse the number of women with cervical cancer, which is also caused by HPV.
Unlike some people, I’m a big proponent of going downtown when it comes to the ladies. It really is just a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Most guys I know enjoy performing it on their female counterparts, whether it’s a power thing, for instant reciprocation, just because they like doing it, or some combination of the three.
But just like how men get vilified if they’re incredibly sexually active and don’t disclose that they have certain undetectable (or detectable) sexually transmitted infections, women, too, need to take better care in preventing HPV before they ask guys to go muff diving. Vaccines such as Gardasil and Cervarix are revolutionary breakthroughs in medicine; three shots over six months for the prevention of HPV is a magical and wonderful thing. It’s not just for women, either. Men can and SHOULD get the shots, too. I got the Gardasil shots. ZERO shame. I’m one less, one less, o-n-e l-e-s-s.
It’s not proven that it would prevent oral cancers in men, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. “I think the downside of having the HPV vaccine in young boys is so low and the potential upside is so high that I advocate it,” says Genden. “Do we have evidence that it prevents oropharyngeal cancer in boys? No.”
I’m not saying that any single individual is at fault when it comes to the passing of HPV. Frankly, it could have nothing to do with gender or trying to get out of the labia labyrinth. Additionally, Dimon’s cancer could have nothing to do with sexual clam-digging. But something is going on to cause this disease, and if we don’t do something about preventing HPV and, possibly, being more careful when cleaning out your lady’s carburetor, we could be looking at a major epidemic.