During the launch of Mouth Cancer Action Month at the House of Commons today [Thursday 29 October] MPs were urged to consider a change in policy on human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccinations in order to stop the spread of mouth cancer in order to save thousands of lives.
Campaigners believe the current vaccination programme is fundamentally flawed and have called on MP’s to extend the current vaccination programme, which currently only vaccinates girls, to include boys as well.
Keynote speaker Peter Baker, Campaign Director of HPV Action, addressed the attending dignitaries and highlighted the importance of urgent changes in policy.
Mr Baker said: “We calculate that HPV is responsible for over 2,000 new cases of cancer in men each year in the UK.
“Even though the current vaccination programme for girls will protect some boys, it will only protect those who have sex with vaccinated women. Many more will have sex with women who have not been vaccinated, whether in the UK or in other countries without a vaccination programme or where uptake levels of vaccination are poor.
“Men who have sex with men are also completely unprotected by the current vaccination programme. It cannot be right to withhold an effective health intervention from a group of people just on the grounds of their sex, HPV affects both sexes and both sexes should be equally protected.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination (JCVI) began a review of whether boys should be vaccinated in 2013. It originally planned to report in 2015 but a decision has been delayed until 2017 and it’s quite probable that we won’t hear the final outcome until 2018.
“If this estimate is right, it would mean that millions more boys will have missed out on vaccination and remains dangerously unprotected. It’s HPV Action’s view that the decision-making process must be accelerated and a decision made in 2016.”
“Gender-neutral HPV vaccination is not a weird idea. It’s a public health intervention that’s gaining increasing acceptance and we hope that, on the grounds of public health, equity, and a simple desire to end suffering wherever we can, that the right decision is made in the UK – and quickly.”
Mouth Cancer Action Month, organised by the UK’s leading oral health charity, the British Dental Health Foundation, was officially launched by the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Beresford MP.
The charity campaign helps to raise awareness of mouth cancer and make a difference by saving thousands of lives through early detection and prevention.
Throughout November it aims to get more mouth cancers diagnosed at an early stage by increasing education on the risk factors and signs and symptoms while encouraging everybody to discuss them with their dental professional.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, called on those in attendance to take the campaign messages to the public in the hope of reducing growing mouth cancer rates.
Dr Carter said: “In the UK, almost 7,000 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year and it claims more lives than cervical and testicular cancer combined. The disease is one of the fastest growing cancers in the UK, with cases increasing by a third in the last decade alone.
“Mouth cancer is one of very few cancers which are predicted to increase further in the coming years, yet awareness of the disease is disturbingly low and that is why Mouth Cancer Action Month is so important.
“If more people are made aware of the dangers of tobacco use, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and human papilloma virus (HPV), they will have a greater understanding of the risks they take. Mouth Cancer Action Month runs throughout November and we want everyone to make the most of this opportunity to raise awareness and fight back against mouth cancer.”
The British Dental Health Foundation wants everyone to be ‘mouthaware’ and alert to changes in their mouth, in particular ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, lumps or swellings and red and white patches in the mouth, these are all warning signs – if in doubt yet checked out it could save your life.
The launch event also featured speeches from campaign sponsors Dr Roger Matthews on behalf of Denplan, and supporters Sarah Bradbury on behalf of Dentists’ Provident and David Worskett on behalf of the Association of Dental Groups (ADG).