'Give boys HPV jab to halt cancer rise'

Growing incidence of HPV- related throat cancer warrants vaccinating boys against the virus, say researchers.

Boys may benefit from HPV jab as well
Boys may benefit from HPV jab as well

Previous calls for boys to receive HPV jabs were rejected because the cost exceeded the upper threshold of NICE's cost-effectiveness benchmark - cost per 'quality adjusted life year'.

But the UK has seen a 51 per cent rise in incidence of oral and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma in men, from seven per 100,000 to 11 per 100,000 between 1989 and 2006.

Researchers said this surge may alter the cost-effectiveness argument and mean vaccination for boys could be justified on a health economic basis.

RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos said it was too early to judge the effects of vaccinating girls alone on the incidence of HPV-related cancers in men and women outside the female genital tract.

However, he added: 'A decision to vaccinate boys will help towards reducing the prevalence of HPV infection among men and women generally.'

Writing in the BMJ, Hisham Mehanna and colleagues at University Hospital, Coventry, said the worldwide incidence of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma caused by HPV had exploded, apparently due to a rise in HPV-related tumours.

A Swedish study recently showed rising prevalence of HPV in biopsies to diagnose oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. In the 1970s, 23 per cent of biopsies to diagnose oesophageal cancers also detected HPV. By 2006/7, this had risen to 93 per cent.

The authors said sexual transmission of HPV, through orogenital intercourse, may be responsible.

These cancers are likely to be costly to the NHS, because patients are often younger, employed, and have a better prognosis than those with non-HPV related cancers.

  • BMJ 2010; 340: 1439.

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