The Oral Health Foundation has welcomed plans to expand the HPV vaccine programme to protect boys, as well as girls.
Currently, 12 and 13-year-old girls are offered the immunisation as part of a scheme to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Now, Public Health England has confirmed that the programme will be rolled out to include teenage boys in a bid to lower the number of cancer cases linked to the virus.
HPV (human papilloma virus) is a very common virus, which usually doesn’t cause any problems. However, there are certain strains that increase the risk of some types of cancer.
The vaccination has been incredibly effective in lowering the risk of cervical cancer, and campaigners believed that boys should be vaccinated to protect them against other forms of cancer. Oral cancer, for example, is linked to HPV exposure, and the number of cases in the UK has more than doubled in the last 10-15 years.
HPV vaccination started in 2008 and Public Health England has confirmed that boys in year 8 will be offered the injection from September 2019. It is estimated that around 5% of cancer cases are linked to the HPV, and in the UK, experts believe that extending the vaccination programme could prevent up to 2,000 cases in men each year.
Types of cancer that may be associated with HPV in men include cancer of the penis and anus and head and neck cancer.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, welcomed the news and urged all parents of boys and girls who are eligible for the vaccine to take advantage of the opportunity to have the injection. The programme has already enjoyed incredible results among girls and young women, and expanding the scheme could save many more lives.