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Putting prevention to work: Boys in Wales to get protection from oral cancer-causing HPV

Blog Author Tom Bysouth

Blog Date 18/07/2018


We're delighted to hear the news that the HPV vaccine has been recommended to be extended to boys in England – and within hours both Welsh and Scottish governments have committed to funding the programme.

Following the BDA's work lobbying, as part of the HPV Action coalition, Government advisers have now said they recommend extending vaccinations to adolescent boys in England and Wales, 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.

Oral cancer incidence rates are surging in Wales, and HPV is key risk factor. Every year 17,000 boys in Wales have gone unprotected, so we are pleased to hear all our children will now benefit through a universal vaccination programme. 

Oral cancer incidence in Wales has gone up by a third in 10 years – much higher than the UK average of 23 per cent.  

HPV has emerged as the leading cause of throat cancers, especially among young people, and rates are rising steeply overall.

Oral cancer now claims more lives in Wales than car accidents.

The condition is linked to five per cent of all cancers worldwide, including some that affect only men. Early detection is key, and dentists are well-placed to spot the condition and help save lives.

Around nine out of 10 oral or throat cancer cases are linked to preventable causes like smoking, alcohol, and contracting HPV.

We're thrilled the Welsh Assembly Government has acted so quickly on HPV, but we will need to see more than piecemeal action on smoking and alcohol from Cardiff Bay.

We have secured major progress, but Wales still lacks the dedicated strategy required to tackle this life-threatening disease – we will continue to call to put real prevention into practice. 


Tom Bysouth, Chair

Welsh General Dental Practice Committee


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.