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Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson says he got tongue cancer from oral sex

on September 02, 2015, 8:20pm

Photo by Bruce McMurtrie

Earlier this year, Van Halen’s Eddie Van Halen said he thought his 2000 tongue cancer was the result of sticking too many metal guitar picks in his mouth. Well, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, who himself recently was diagnosed with and beat a similar cancer, has an alternative possibility: cunnilingus.

During an Sirius-XM radio interview with Eddie Trunk, Dickinson said he originally discovered a pair of tumors: “I had one golf ball-sized one in my tongue, and I had another one the size of a large strawberry or a small walnut in the lymph node in the right side of my neck, and that’s the one that felt a little strange.” He quickly got himself checked out, and during the diagnosis, the sexually transmitted virus HPV was presented as the cause.

“It’s a virus,” Dickinson explained. “HPV — human papilloma virus. They all are. I’m almost willing to bet, anytime you hear about somebody who gets tonsil cancer, throat cancer, lung cancer, whatever it is, if they’re not heavy smokers and they’re not massive, heavy drinkers, it’s almost inevitably [HPV].”

Of course, as a sexually transmitted virus, there’s really only one way to contract HPV in the mouth, and that’s through oral sex. As Dickinson learned, there’s a sharp increase in this type of cancer for cunning linguists over the age of 40. “There’s a five hundred percent increase in this type of cancer in men over forty — five hundred percent increase. It’s massive. It’s the same virus that causes cervical cancer. The diagnosis is the same. It’s the same words they use.”

“And everybody makes the jokes about Michael Douglas, [who claimed that cunnilingus could have caused his throat cancer,] ’cause he was having oral sex,” Dickinson continued, “and it’s just, like, okay, we need to get over that one, guys, because this is kind of serious. There’s hundreds of thousands of people at risk for this.” He also offered some advice to his fellow middle-aged um, givers. “And guys should know, if you get a lump here, and you’re over forty, don’t just assume antibiotics will get rid of it. Go and properly get it checked out. It’s important.”

Hear Dickinson talk about his cancer diagnosis and how it has affected his vocal performance below, beginning around the 23:10 mark.

Read a transcript of the relevant portion of the interview via Ultimate Guitar.

“It’s a virus. HPV — human papilloma virus. They all are. I’m almost willing to bet, anytime you hear about somebody who gets tonsil cancer, throat cancer, lung cancer, whatever it is, if they’re not heavy smokers and they’re not massive, heavy drinkers, it’s almost inevitably… There’s a five hundred percent increase in this type of cancer in men over forty — five hundred percent increase. It’s massive. It’s the same virus that causes cervical cancer. The diagnosis is the same. It’s the same words they use. And the issue is that in guys, typically, it only presents as a lump in the side of your neck. It’s probably already beavering away inside your tongue, and you don’t even know. And the secondary one that pops up is the one that’s right next door — in your lymph node. And that’s the one that [where you go], ‘Hey, what’s this lump in my neck?’

I had two tumors — I had one golf ball-sized one in my tongue, and I had another one the size of a large strawberry or a small walnut in the lymph node in the right side of my neck, and that’s the one that felt a little strange. I thought, ‘Hmm, am I getting a cold? Am I getting some sort of bug, or what’s going on?’ But it didn’t go down, and it was kind of hard; it wasn’t squishy and moving around like normal soft tissue, a lymph node, does. So that was the giveaway, and typically, that is the only giveaway. ‘Cause when I got diagnosed with it, I immediately went in and… You’ve got nothing else better to do for nine weeks or twelve weeks except Google it on the Internet, find out everything you can about it. Know your enemy, you know? And, so, looking at other guys’ experiences and clinical reports, you find out that, wow, this thing is really prevalent and lots and lots of guys, they don’t know a huge amount about why, about why it affects some guys and not other guys, why some guys get an HPV infection that doesn’t go away, ’cause they normally just go away. But in some guys over forty, it doesn’t.

And everybody makes the jokes about [actor] Michael Douglas [who claimed that cunnilingus could have caused his throat cancer], ’cause he was having oral sex, and it’s just, like, okay, we need to get over that one, guys, because this is kind of serious. There’s hundreds of thousands of people at risk for this. And guys should know, if you get a lump here, and you’re over forty, don’t just assume antibiotics will get rid of it. Go and properly get it checked out. It’s important.”

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