The Mouth Cancer Foundation launched Mouth Cancer Awareness Week 2007 with a petition to the Prime Minister.
The charity is campaigning to widen the planned human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme to include boys as well as girls.
As previously reported on Dentistry.co.uk, the Foundation has welcomed the government’s introduction of a HPV immunisation programme for girls aged 12-13 against cervical cancer, but says it doesn’t go far enough and is concerned that boys are not being vaccinated.
Research indicates that HPV is a significant factor in many head and neck cancers too. According to an article recently published in the British Journal of Cancer, researchers from Finland using mathematical models of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 virus infection to determine the optimal age to vaccinate individuals as well as different approaches to introducing the vaccine into the general population concluded that:
• Vaccination generates the greatest long-term benefit when administered prior to the first sexual contact
• Vaccination of males as well as females has a greater impact when administered at an early age.
While males cannot get HPV-linked cervical cancer, they make up half of the equation when it comes to spreading the sexually transmitted virus. This is a viral infectious process, and the majority of the time it is passed through heterosexual contact. Men can pass on the virus to their sexual partners, so it makes sense to vaccinate boys against HPV, and it would also protect them from throat cancer. The virus is also a leading cause of throat cancer, which affects both sexes.
The founder of the Mouth Cancer Foundation, Dr Vinod Joshi, said: ‘An increasing number of cases of mouth cancer, especially those of the tonsil and base of tongue, are occurring in younger individuals who are non-smokers and the evidence points to HPV. The HPV group is the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population. We are concerned that the government is not providing HPV Vaccination for boys too.’