The Department of Health in the UK is being put under pressure to review the national HPV immunisation programme following a dramatic rise in oropharyngeal (throat) cancer cases that have been linked to HPV. Over 70% of these cancers are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) according to the latest evidence. The figures were collected by the Institute of Head and Neck Studies, which surveyed various countries, including the UK on the topic of cancers and their relationship to HPV. 10 years ago, less than one third of throat cancers were caused by HPV, indicating the need for a decision to vaccinate boys as well as girls.
Research shows that boys are more prone to developing cancer of the throat since there is a higher concentration of the HPV virus found in the female genital tract. Studies show that there is a very strong link between oropharyngeal cancers and oral sex and the average age of patients presenting with it is getting lower.
The same old argument prevails however regarding the cost of this expensive vaccine. We don’t know if administering the vaccine to boys is worth the expense but it seems that the medical evidence is coming down on the side of a widened vaccination programme. We have already seen the recommended HPV vaccination change to a more expensive but wider spectrum vaccine, so we would not be surprised to see a change in the recommendation regarding vaccinating boys on this latest evidence.