This week has brought us some great news: the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has finally recommended to Government that boys, as well as girls, be offered the HPV vaccine, and the Governments in England, Wales and Scotland have now agreed to fund the programme.
Why is this important for dentistry? Well, dentists, led by the BDA and other stakeholders, have been lobbying for this for nearly five years, as oral and oropharyngeal cancers, including those caused by HPV, are on the rise.
It's important as a young dentist to be aware of the statistics for several reasons, including giving information for patients, but also to your peers and family.
During my time as a Dental Core Trainee, I saw an increasing number of patients that did not drink and smoke, who developed oral or oropharyngeal cancers.
One of these patients was a 21-year-old male, and another was a dentist.
HPV is usually recognised by the dentist as the wart-like, pedunculated lesion which exists innocently, in the oral cavity. HPV related cancers may be caused by the viral type HPV 16 and 18, the vaccine resists 70% of all types of cervical cancers and also some resistance to genital warts.
Oral cancer: identify, diagnose and refer
Check out the free oral cancer toolkit for dental professionals that the BDA developed alongside Cancer Research UK – it aims to help you identify, diagnose and refer possible cases of oral cancer.
It is currently estimated that the number of non-cervical HPV cancers in males and females, are equal to the number of HPV cervical cancers. HPV targets the squamous epithelium and include the genital area, anus, oropharyngeal and an increasing number of oral cancers.
People most likely to contract HPV are between ages 16-25, and also individuals that have long-term sexual relationships with those who harbour the virus.
Although the female vaccine offers some protection to males who are heterosexual, it does not offer protection for men who have sex with other men, or with unvaccinated women.
The JCVI has recommended the vaccination offered to boys and this is something to be applauded and will make a big difference and actually help to save lives.
Amaar Hassan, member
BDA Young Dentists Committee
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