Michael Douglas had a public-relations headache when the Guardian newspaper reported that he blamed oral sex for his cancer — and his representative quickly contested the story.
But the "Behind the Candelabra" star has found a silver lining, he said Monday.
"I never expected to become a poster boy for head and neck cancer, but, if after what started out as trying to answer a couple of questions about the suspected sources of this disease results in opening up discussion and furthering public awareness, then I'll stand by that," Douglas said at an American Cancer Society's tribute to composer Marvin Hamlisch.
"Head and neck cancer can be caused by many things including HPV virus, smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, genes, environment and stress. I do not know what caused my particular cancer. If I did, I'd have a Nobel Prize."
The actor concluded, "I do know that I am here today because of all the incredible advances in cancer research and treatment. Early awareness is a key factor. If this episode contributes to public awareness, all the better."
The Guardian published an interview in which Douglas seemed to attribute his throat cancer to oral sex.
Asked if he regretted years of smoking and drinking in light of his diagnosis, Douglas replied, "No. Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus."
After the interview was published, Douglas' representative told TheWrap that Douglas was merely offering one of the causes for his type of cancer.
"He did not say cunnilingus was the cause of his cancer," Douglas' representative, Allen Burry said. "He didn't specifically name a cause."
The 68-year-old actor, who is married to actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010. Douglas says that he is currently free of the disease.