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Boys in Scotland to get protection from oral cancer-causing HPV

Blog Author David Cross

Blog Date 19/07/2018


We were pleased to hear the news that the HPV vaccine has been recommended to be extended to boys in England. However we are nothing short of delighted to see that the Scottish Government has already committed to funding the programme.

Following five years of lobbying, together with our partners at the HPV Action coalition, Government advisers in England have now said they recommend extending vaccinations to adolescent boys in England, alongside girls (aged 12-13 years old) who have been vaccinated since 2008, subject to ministers negotiating an effective rate on bulk purchase of the vaccine.

While the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has no statutory basis for providing advice to Ministers in Scotland, we had urged them to follow these recommendations.

We just didn't expect to see the results so quickly.

Yes, we have expressed disquiet at moves from the Scottish Government to move towards 24-month recall intervals – which could have a significant impact on oral cancer detection rates.

Yes, we believe the Scottish Government's new Oral Health Improvement Plan may, unwittingly, erect new barriers to oral cancer detection. And in response to cursory coverage within the new official Oral Health Improvement Plan, we have been developing our own oral cancer action plan.

But this is welcome news.

Scots have almost double the incidence of oral cancer than England, and people from deprived areas are up to three times more likely to be affected; a person in Glasgow is almost two and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with a cancer of the oral cavity than a person in Grampian.

HPV is a key risk factor, and this year 30,000 boys in Scotland have gone unprotected.

Oral cancer claims more lives in Scotland than car accidents. Dentists are often the first to spot the condition, and we have fought to see the logic of prevention put into practice.

It's great news that 'Jabs for the Boys' will soon be offered in our schools. Now we need the Scottish government to work with this profession to really turn the tables on this life-threatening condition – through the school vaccination programme, and in their approach to OHIP.  

David Cross, Vice Chair

BDA Scottish Council


Oral cancer toolkit for dentists

Our free oral cancer toolkit is designed to help dental health professionals to identify and refer possible cases of oral cancer, and was developed with Cancer Research UK. 

Dentists and their teams have a vital role to play in ensuring oral cancers are detected early and patients are informed about the risk factors. With oral cancers, the key is spotting early on: early detection results in a roughly 90 per cent survival rate, compared to a 50 per cent survival rate for delayed diagnosis.