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HPV vaccine for boys raises hope of eradicating cervical cancer

This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/08/hpv-jab-boys-raises-hope-eradicating-cervical-cancer/

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More than 100,000 cases of cancer will be prevented under plans to give boys the HPV jab as well as girls, health officials have said.

Until now, only teenage girls have been given the free vaccine, with parental consent, which protects against cervical cancer.

From September, boys aged 12 and 13 will also be given the jab at school.

Giving boys the vaccine protects girls from the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is passed on through sexual contact.

And it will also protect them from a range of other forms of the disease, including some cancers of the head and neck, and penile, anal and genital cancers.

Scientists hope that cervical cancer could be eradicated within decades, because of the success of the jabs.

Since the vaccine was introduced for teenage girls in 2008, cases of HPV have fallen by 86 per cent among the age groups vaccinated.

At a glance | What is gynaecological cancer?

  • There are five gynaecological cancers – ovarian, cervical, womb, vulval and vaginal. Together, these cancers are the world’s fourth largest cancer killer of women.
  • Every year one million women worldwide are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer – just 200,000 fewer than the number who are diagnosed with breast cancer – and over 850,000 women die.
  • In the UK there are over 20,000 new cases of gynaecological cancer per year and over 7,600 deaths. This equates to 55 women per day being diagnosed, and 21 families organising a funeral for a woman they love.

Professor Beate Kampmann, director of the vaccine centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “This decision is a triumph for gender equality in cancer prevention.

“It’s pleasing to see the UK follow the example of other countries like Australia, where the vaccine has been implemented for girls since 2007 and for boys since 2013.”

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers in girls and reduce the overall burden of these cancers in both men and women in the future.

“I encourage all parents of eligible boys and girls to make sure they take up the offer for this potentially life-saving vaccine.

“It’s important not to delay vaccination, as the vaccine may be less effective as adolescents get older.”

Public health minister Seema Kennedy said: “The success of the HPV vaccine programme for girls is clear and by extending it to boys we will go a step further to help us prevent more cases of HPV-related cancer every year.

“Through our world-leading vaccination programme, we have already saved millions of lives and prevented countless cases of terrible diseases.

“Experts predict that we could be on our way toward eliminating cervical cancer for good.”

At a glance | Human papilloma virus (HPV)

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.

The precancerous lesions increase the risk of cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, or throat.

Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious. They are spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas. What can HPV infection do?

Infection with some types of genital HPV can cause:

  • genital warts – which is the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in England
  • abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within your cervix – which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer

Girls aged 12-13 are offered a vaccination against HPV to help protect them against types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Women aged 25-64 are offered cervical screening to check for abnormal cells in the cervix.

Other types of HPV infection can cause minor problems, such as common skin warts and verrucas.

NHS Choices

Estimates from the University of Warwick suggest the vaccine will prevent 64,138 cervical cancers and 49,649 non-cervical cancers in the UK by 2058.  This will include 3,433 cases of penile cancer and 21,395 cases of head and neck cancer, such as throat cancer, in men.

Across the UK, boys will receive their first dose aged 12 to 13 – year eight for those in England and Wales – with a follow-up dose six months to two years later, also given in school.

In Scotland, the first dose could be given between the ages of 11 and 13.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The potential of this vaccine to save lives and prevent the complications of cancer is huge, and since it has been available on the NHS for girls, it has had excellent take-up, with impressive results – it’s important this success is replicated with boys.

“We’d encourage all parents of eligible children to get their child vaccinated when it is offered, and if they miss the round for any reason, that they let their school nurse know so that they can be invited to a ‘catch-up’ clinic.”

Peter Baker, campaign director for HPV Action, said: “We made the case for this for five long years because we know that universal vaccination will save men’s and women’s lives, reduce suffering and in the long run save money too.”

More than 3,000 women in the UK are newly diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK and the disease kills over 850 women annually.