Dentists hail breakthrough as boys to get protection from cancer-causing HPV
18 July 2018
The BDA has welcomed official confirmation that
UK government advisers have finally recommended funding human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for boys – with almost 400,000 across UK set to benefit each year.
Subject to ministers negotiating an effective rate on bulk purchase of the vaccine, advisers have backed extending immunisation to adolescent boys at the same age as adolescent girls (12-13 years).
The BDA has been a leading voice in the call for a gender-neutral approach to the vaccinations, which are currently provided to school age girls as protection from cervical cancer. HPV has emerged as the leading cause of throat cancers, especially among young people, and rates are rising steeply overall. The condition is linked to 5% of all cancers worldwide, including some that affect only men.
Over 30 people in Britain are diagnosed with oral (including mouth and throat) cancers every day. Over the last decade, oral cancer incidence rates have increased by almost a quarter (23%) in the UK, making it one of the fastest rising types of cancer, and has higher incidence among men. Around nine out of 10 oral cancer cases are linked to preventable causes like smoking, alcohol and contracting HPV.
Government advisers at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had delayed recommendations to expand the programme in recent years, and have received widespread criticism for questioning the cost effectiveness of vaccinating boys, based on unpublished, flawed and out of date modelling.
The BDA has urged UK and all devolved governments to press ahead on implementation. 15 countries are already vaccinating boys or plan to do so. These include Australia, Austria, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and the United States of America.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said:
"Every year 400,000 boys have been left unprotected from the life-threatening conditions fuelled by HPV. Finally all our children can benefit from a universal vaccination programme.
"Oral cancer claims more lives than car accidents, and men are twice as likely as women to develop it. Dentists are often the first to see the tell-tale signs, and have fought to see prevention put into practice.
"Too many children have missed out as government advisors have dragged their feet on extending the programme. Further delay will only cost lives. Health professionals expect swift rollout of a national programme."
Mick Armstrong applauded today’s commitment from the Scottish Government’s Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick and from the Welsh Assembly to rapidly extend coverage of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations to school-aged boys in Scotland and Wales stressing that: "Westminster must not drag its feet when it comes to rollout of a gender-neutral vaccination programme."
Oral cancer toolkit for dentists
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.