The Dentist Magazine.

HPV vaccination

Published: 06/02/2017

The Oral Health Foundation has reiterated its call for the urgent introduction of a gender neutral HPV vaccination in the UK in order to stop a rapid increase in mouth cancer cases.

Mouth cancer rates in the UK have risen by almost 300 per cent percent within the last three decadesand are predicted to rise by more than a third again before 2035.

The charity believes an increase in human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is responsible for the alarming rise and has branded the UK’s current HPV vaccination programme as inadequate, unfair and discriminatory against males and putting millions of lives at risk.

Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said, “For far too long men have been excluded from being provided a simple and potentially lifesaving HPV vaccine and this will undoubtedly contribute to the enormous increase in mouth cancer cases.

“Girls have been offered a HPV vaccination through schools to protect against cervical cancer for almost a decade now and it has saved countless lives; the debate around a gender neutral vaccination has continued for almost this long with no conclusion.

“A decision on a gender neutral vaccination has been repeatedly and unfairly delayed by the Government; every year this wait goes on it means hundreds and thousands of boys miss out on receiving a potentially lifesaving vaccination and remain unprotected from the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world.

“Mouth cancer cases have rocketed to more than 7,500 cases each year in the UK over recent years and claims more than twice as many lives than testicular and cervical cancer combined; this cannot be allowed to continue.

“We urge everybody to join our call for an urgent decision on a gender neutral HPV vaccination in the UK to be made. If we allow for the current programme to continue it will continue to contribute to more and more cases of mouth cancer and more and more people losing their lives unnecessarily.”

HPV is spread to the mouth via oral sex; HPV can also be responsible for causing cervical, vaginal, penile and anal cancer as well as genital warts.

It is estimated that it will cost about £20-24m per year to extend the current UK HPV vaccination programme to include school age boys in the UK. In comparison, treatment of HPV related genital warts in men alone in the UK is estimated to be more than £32m a year. There are potentially enormous savings to be made by the NHS through the introduction of a gender neutral vaccine.

Peter Baker, campaign director at HPV Action, said, “A decision to vaccinate boys as well as girls against HPV is now long overdue. Boys in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the United States are offered the vaccine and the Italian Government has just decided to do the same. It’s unacceptable that boys in the UK are being left behind and exposed to the virus that causes 5 per cent of all cancers worldwide.”

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