Doctor calls for boys to get HPV vaccine to prevent cancer

The Guardian reports that Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health is urging ministers to extend the offer of jabs against the HPV virus from 12- and 13-year old schoolgirls to boys of the same age to tackle the growing number of cancers it causes. The link between oral sex, HPV and certain types of cancer was highlighted in June when actor Michael Douglas blamed his throat cancer on oral sex.

The move would also help to protect men who have sex with men, he added. They are at risk from transmission of the HPV virus if they have unprotected sex. Cases of oral cancer have risen sharply over the last decade, from 4,400 a year in 2002 to 6,200 last year, with two-thirds occurring in men, according to Cancer Research UK. Experts have identified high-risk strains of the HPV virus as a key probable cause. Such patients are often younger and have not smoked, fuelling the suspicion that HPV caused their cancer.

The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), which represents specialist sexual health doctors, said young people and high-risk groups needed to be made more aware of the links between oral sex and HPV-linked cancers.