Boys 'need sex-virus jab'

Consideration should be given to routinely vaccinating young boys against a sexually-transmitted virus linked to mouth cancer, a leading expert says.

Increasing evidence suggests certain strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are behind big increases in rates of oral cancer.



In the past 20 years there has been a 200% increase in the incidence of oral cancers in the US associated with HPV. Similar trends have been seen in other parts of the world, including the UK, Scandinavia and Australia.



Part of the reason is thought to be changes in sexual behaviour - especially a more casual attitude towards oral sex.



US cancer specialist Professor Maura Gillison believes the time has come to think about protecting pre-adolescent boys against oral cancer as they become sexually active.



The well-known link between HPV and cervical cancer has led to the routine vaccination of girls aged 12 to 13 in the UK since 2008.



Some have also advocated boys being vaccinated to stem the spread of the virus and prevent genital warts and anal cancers, which are also thought to be caused by HPV.



Prof Gillison, from Ohio State University in Columbus, acknowledged that the idea of vaccinating children to prevent an infection associated with oral sex was "very, very controversial".



But asked if boys should be considered for vaccination, she said: "Yes certainly, I think there's evidence that vaccination of boys, if the vaccine uptake of girls is relatively low, would help not only the boys in prevention of genital warts and anal cancer but also help protect women against cervical cancer.



"The time has come to have a more thorough discussion about the benefits of HPV vaccination for boys - which would include prevention of genital warts and anogenital cancers in boys and girls, as well as potential prevention of oral cancers that are rising in incidence among the young."



She said she told her patients, when asked, to go ahead and vaccinate their sons.



"The vaccine will protect them against genital warts and anal cancer and also as a potential byproduct of that it may protect them against oral cancer caused by HPV," she added.



Some of the most compelling recent evidence had come from Sweden, said Prof Gillison, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Washington DC.



Research there had shown that since the 1970s the proportion of HPV-positive tonsil cancers had risen from a quarter in the 1970s to 90% by the mid-2000s.



The HPV strain mostly linked to cervical cancer, HPV 16, was even more closely associated with oral cancers, said Prof Gillison.



While it was responsible for about 60% of cervical cancers, it was present in up to 95% of cases of HPV-positive oral cancer.



Someone exposed to HPV 16 had an estimated 14-fold increased risk of developing cancer of the mouth or upper throat.



Prof Gillison added: "When we look at cancer incidence rates in the US, what really is driving the increase in oral cancers related to HPV is the year in which you are born.



"It really is the group of individuals who were born after 1935 who have really started to see this increase.



"Every birth cohort appears to be at greater risk from HPV and oral cancers than the group born before them. These were people who were in their teens and 20s in the 1950s and 1960s when the sexual revolution happened in the US.



"What really drives these cohort effects is societal changes that tend to affect younger people first."



She added that the number of sexual partners someone had in their lifetime - particularly the number on whom they had performed oral sex - was strongly linked to oral HPV infections.



"The higher the number of partners that you've had, the greater the odds that you'd have an oral infection," she said.



Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Cancers in the mouth and throat are on the increase and rates have been rising dramatically in the UK since the mid 1980s, especially in people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. The proportion of these cancers that appear to be related to infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV) is also increasing.



"But while it's reasonable to assume that HPV vaccination in girls and boys would protect against these cancers, there is as yet no evidence as to whether the current HPV vaccines are effective at preventing them.



"The trials done to date have looked at cervical cancer or genital warts as endpoints, so we need new studies to show effectiveness against these HPV-related head and neck cancers.



"Yet most oral cancers diagnosed in people over 50 in the UK are still related to tobacco and alcohol use."

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'