HPV vaccine could prevent over 100,000 cancers

HPV vaccine for boys

Estimates suggest that the HPV vaccine programme will lead to the prevention of over 64,000 cervical cancers and nearly 50,000 non-cervical cancers by 2058.

From September this year, boys in school year 8 will be offered the free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for the first time.

Worldwide, about 5% of all cancers are linked to the HPV virus. This includes cervical, penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck – all of which the vaccine helps to protect against. Cervical cancer is currently the most common cancer in women under 35, killing around 850 women each year. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of cervical cancers, as well as 90% of anal, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers and more than 60% of penile cancers.

Modelling produced by the University of Warwick estimates that by 2058 the HPV vaccine currently being used may have prevented up to 64,138 HPV-related cervical cancers and 49,649 other HPV-related cancers. This would be 50 years after the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme, when people who were vaccinated as teenagers have reached the age groups that they would typically be affected by HPV related cancers.

Dr Ashis Banerjee, Screening and Immunisation Lead at PHE West Midlands said: “This is good news. The universal programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme.

“Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV related cancers in girls and reduce the overall burden of these cancers in both men and women in the future.

“I encourage all parents of eligible boys and girls to make sure they take up the offer for this potentially life-saving vaccine.

“It’s important not to delay vaccination, as the vaccine may be less effective as adolescents get older.”

Rebecca Webster from Coventry was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 36. Rebecca said: "It’s great to hear that the HPV vaccine is going to be offered to boys as well as girls. The vaccine wasn’t available when I was younger and if it had, it could have prevented my cancer and subsequent treatment from ever happening. It’s fantastic that young people may be prevented from having to go through what I went through. I’ll be making sure that my son gets vaccinated so that his risk of getting a HPV caused cancer is much reduced.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “The extension of the HPV vaccine to boys is a huge leap forward, not only for cervical cancer prevention but many other cancers caused by HPV too. HPV does not discriminate – it can affect everyone, yet there are still many harmful myths and stigmas surrounding it. This is why a universal vaccination programme is so important, as not only will it normalise this very common virus and reduce existing inequalities, it will protect many more people from developing cancer and save lives.

“We can already see the vaccine’s benefits among girls, and we look forward to seeing these fantastic results continue to grow. However, this will only happen if we ensure that the uptake remains as high as it is.

Girls have been offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine free from the NHS since 2008. So far, ten million doses of HPV vaccine have been given to young women in this country meaning over 80% of women aged 15-24 have received the vaccine. Since the introduction of HPV vaccination, infections of some types of HPV (HPV 16/18) in 16-21 year old women have reduced by 86% in England. A Scottish study also showed that the vaccine has reduced pre-cancerous cervical disease in women by up to 71%. Similarly, diagnoses of genital warts have declined by 90% in 15-17 year old girls and 70% in 15-17 year old boys due to the HPV vaccine.

Parents of girls and boys aged 12 and 13 should look out for information from their children’s school about the vaccine and timings for the jab. If they miss out on the vaccination for any reason they should talk to their school nurse/immunisation team about getting the vaccine at a later date. 

More information about HPV vaccination for parents and their children is available here (see HPV).

 

Press release from Public Health England (West Midlands).

 

 

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