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Give teenage boys the HPV vaccine to prevent men getting cancers

Giving teenage boys the HPV vaccine would be a good way to help reduce those cancers which can be caused by oral sex, says Faculty of Public Health (FPH) President Professor John Ashton.

His comments are made in support of Sexual Health Week, which runs until 22 September, and is organised by the Family Planning Association and Brook.

Professor Ashton said: “We need to talk more about the risks of oral sex and educate people about them. The actor Michael Douglas’ recent comments have helped raise awareness of the links between certain types of HPV and cancer.

“The biggest risks for cancer are, of course, smoking and drinking. But many people, particularly teenagers, don’t realise the risks of unprotected oral sex.

“It’s important we give our children and young people all the information they need so that they fully understand what safe sex is and how to protect themselves by using condoms and dental dams.

“That’s why it makes sense to give teenage boys as well as girls the HPV vaccine, which is already happening in Australia. We need to protect everyone from the risks of HPV, particularly men who have sex with men.”

Also supporting the call is the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), the lead professional representative body for those managing sexually transmitted diseases and HIV in the UK.

BASHH President, Dr Janet Wilson said: “With increasing HPV-related cancer risks from oral sex, we clearly need to raise awareness and promote safer sex among young people and high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men (MSM). However, more urgently, we need to take action to address the lack of protection MSM receive from the current all-girls HPV vaccination programme.

“There is now widespread agreement, including within Government, that it is unfair that they remain unprotected.”

“We are pleased that the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation is looking in to the possibility of widening the HPV vaccination programme to look specifically at MSM. However, it is now ten months since the consultation closed and we still await their response. 

"We hope that the committee report back at the earliest possible opportunity and that the Government acts swiftly on all recommendations they make.  The serious and increasing rates of HPV-related cancers specifically among MSM mean that we simply cannot afford to delay.”

Written: 19/09/2013 , last modified: 05/03/2014