At just 8000 genetic letters in length, the human papillomavirus (HPV) may be small — compare this with the 3 billion–odd letters of the human genome — but it can pack a mean punch. Some members of the HPV family of viruses are oncoviruses, meaning that they can lead to cancer. But if you’ve heard of HPV’s cancer-causing properties, you’ve probably heard it in the context of cervical cancer. Yesterday, Michael Douglas announced that his throat cancer was the result of infection with HPV. This afternoon, I was asked to write a piece for the Conversation about Douglas’s ‘cunnilingus caused my cancer’ confession — read it here.