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Over the weekend, Gay Twitter™ was in shambles after an academic journal published a piece that names oral sex as a leading factor in what it calls the “throat cancer epidemic.”

For lack of a better way to put it: That’s tough news to swallow. But there’s a few things that need cleared up…

As Dr. Hisham Mehanna writes in The Conversation, we’ve seen an alarming rise in throat cancer over the past two decades—specifically oropharyngeal cancer, which effects the tonsils and back of the throat—enough for it to now be deemed an epidemic.

The leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer is HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), so Dr. Mehanna cautions that one’s number of sexual partners is a major risk factor:

“Those with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not practice oral sex,” he adds.

Despite the alarm—”six or more lifetime oral-sex partners” sounds like a shockingly low number—there’s no need for excessive panic. What it comes down to, as it always does with STIs, is practicing safe sex and having access to sexual health information and resources.

So, no, oral sex is not directly responsible for throat cancer. HPV is. And that’s the bottom line.

But this is the internet we’re talking about, so things are always taken out of context and blown out of proportion.

Exhibit A is this tweet from popular pop culture updates account @ThePopTingz. As you can see, they manage to skip over some important info:

If there’s one good thing to come from the Musk era of Twitter, it’s that important context can now be added to misleading tweets like the above. In this case, it’s the clarification that actually “oral sex itself does not seem to be the cause, but it can increase the risk of passing [HPV,] which can increase the risk of throat cancer.”

Going one step further, the context links to an article from Medical Health Today which clarifies from the jump that oral sex does not cause throat cancer, and even provides sexual safety tips and further information on the HPV vaccine, which is widely available.

Still, @ThePopTingz tweet got around the internet and caused quite a stir. Many on Gay Twitter™ were quick to make jokes…

While others took it upon themselves to point out how misleading the tweet was…

In short, just because you see something tweeted from an account with a blue checkmark next to it, that doesn’t mean you should take it at face value. Especially these days.

Now get out there, touch some grass, get vaccinated, and go have some safe sex!

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