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HPV vaccinations for boys in Scotland - why a catch-up programme is needed

Blog Author David Cross

Blog Date 17/07/2019


Oral cancer is a serious and growing concern in Scotland – incidence rates are among the highest in Europe, we have seen a 37% increase in oral cancer deaths in the last decade, and it claims three times as many lives in Scotland as car accidents. 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is an important risk factor for oral cancer. In Scotland, we were delighted that the Scottish Government was the first administration in the UK to announce in July 2018 that it would be introducing the vaccine for adolescent boys. 

Prevention is a central theme in BDA Scotland’s Oral Cancer awareness campaign and in our Oral Cancer Action Plan, published in November 2018, we called on the Scottish Government to introduce the programme as soon as possible and include a catch-up programme for boys who are still in school.

While we welcome the announcement that all 12 and 13 year-olds in England will get protection from HPV from the next school year, a failure to extend coverage to older boys in Scotland will leave 140,000 at risk from this cancer-causing virus. 

A catch-up programme provided a model when the vaccine was first rolled out to girls, and we are aware that the Scottish Government is considering the evidence before deciding whether to offer it to older boys.

Given its key role in prevention, we urge Ministers to go the extra mile and take the same approach that was offered when girls first received the vaccine. 

Otherwise, 140,000 boys will miss out – and we need to ensure we are doing everything we can to combat this terrible disease.

David Cross, Chair
BDA Scotland Oral Cancer Working Group

Oral cancer toolkit for dental health professionals

Our free oral cancer toolkit is designed to help dental health professionals to identify and refer possible cases of oral cancer, and was developed with Cancer Research UK. 

Dentists and their teams have a vital role to play in ensuring oral cancers are detected early and patients are informed about the risk factors. With oral cancers, the key is spotting early on: early detection results in a roughly 90 per cent survival rate, compared to a 50 per cent survival rate for delayed diagnosis.

Through our policy and campaigning work, we ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level: join us.