A new campaign has been launched to address the pressing need for greater awareness of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its potential impact on millions of men.
The ‘Jabs for the Boys’ initiative from HPV Action, a partnership of which the Faculty of General Dental Practice UK (FGDP(UK)) is a member, aims to improve public education about HPV and the HPV vaccination. Its evidence-based website, www.jabsfortheboys.uk, has been checked by medical experts and compiled in line with the NHS Information Standard, and FGDP(UK) says both dentists and their patients will find it a useful resource.
HPV is as likely to occur in men as it is in women, and affects 80% of men at some point in their lives. While it is normally harmless and goes away without the person knowing they have been infected, it also causes 5% of all cancers, and 2,000 men a year in the UK are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer - of whom almost half will die from the condition within five years.
HPV is also the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, and over two-thirds of oral cancer diagnoses, which have increased sharply in recent years to around 20 a day, are in men. However, a recent nationwide study found that only 12% of adults identify HPV with diseases that affect men.
Since 2008, girls have been vaccinated against HPV on the NHS at age 12/13, leading to a significant reduction in the prevalence of the virus among women. Since then, 3.5 million young men have been left unvaccinated, and HPV Action is campaigning for men to be offered the same protection as women, as will soon be the case in 15 other countries – a position backed by 97% of dentists and 94% of doctors in a poll earlier this year.
The government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recently deferred a decision on whether to recommend the NHS to provide the vaccination to boys - a delay which FGDP(UK) Dean, Mick Horton, described as leaving “the fight against oral cancer hanging in the balance”.
But while it is unclear whether boys will in future be offered the vaccine, in the meantime the new website - which provides bespoke information for boys, parents, straight men, gay/bisexual men and health professionals - aims to educate the public about the virus, and enable them to make an informed decision on whether to have the vaccination privately.