Woking dentists launch campaign to curb mouth cancer

Dentists at Goldsworth Road Dental Centre in Woking are marking Mouth Cancer Action Month in November by supporting a campaign for boys to receive the HPV vaccine.

The dentists will call on the support of Woking MP Jonathan Lord to fight for a gender neutral vaccination policy to help cut the number of deaths caused by mouth cancer – which stands at more than 2,000 a year in the UK. Mouth cancer claims more lives per year than cervical and testicular cancer combined.

Sign the petition

To back the campaign, please visit Goldsworth Road Dental Centre’s online petition. Members of the Woking and Guildford communities can also sign a paper petition at the practice at 96 Goldsworth Road.

Currently only girls aged 12-13 receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination through a school-based programme and it is highly effective in the prevention of cervical cancer. But boys are also at serious risk as HPV is one of the leading causes of mouth, penile and anal cancer.

Government urged to make a decision soon

“While the vaccine’s effectiveness is very welcome, cervical cancer is not the only cancer caused by HPV and girls are certainly not the only people whose lives are at risk,” said Kate Pritchard, principal dentist at Goldsworth Road Dental Centre Woking.

“There is overwhelming support for vaccinating boys from clinicians and organisations working in the fields of oral health, cancer, sexual health, public health and men’s health, and we urge the government to make a decision on gender-neutral HPV vaccinations as soon as possible.”

A decision on whether to vaccinate boys is expected to be made by the government’s vaccination advisory committee (JCVI) in 2017 at the earliest. Even if the right decision is made, implementation of the boys’ programme might not begin until 2020. If so, this would mean that, between 2013 (when JCVI began its assessment of whether to vaccinate boys) and 2020, over 2.5 million more boys will have missed out on vaccination and remain unprotected.

It is estimated that a gender-neutral vaccination would cost, at most, an extra £22m a year to implement. To put that into perspective, the cost of treating oropharyngeal cancer in the UK alone was over £30 million a year in 2010/11, up from £17 million in 2006/7.

The annual cost of treating genital warts is an estimated £58.5 million a year, with more spent on men because they are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. The introduction of a gender-neutral vaccination could therefore save the NHS millions of pounds in vital funding each year.