U.K. dentist: HPV vaccine should be offered to men

The U.K.'s policy of offering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine only to women is unfair and unethical to men, according to a member of Parliament (MP) who is also a practicing dentist.

Speaking to Health Minister Jane Ellison during an adjournment debate on oral cancer, Sir Paul Beresford, a Conservative MP who operates the Beresford Dental Practice in west London, said the current policy regarding the vaccine is also "socially irresponsible" to men because it leaves half the population vulnerable to HPV-associated diseases, according to a Press Association story.

Considering the growing number of oral cancer cases, the vaccination, when combined with efforts to curb smoking and heavy drinking, could save lives, he said.

About 6,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the U.K., resulting in 1,800 deaths from the disease, Beresford said. Oral cancer rates have been increasing steadily for the past decade, with 35% more cases annually than 30 years ago, he noted.

He emphasized the importance of dentists and the public being aware of the disease, and recommended that dentists should check soft tissues for lumps and ulcers that could indicate early signs of oral cancer.

If current trends continue, the number of men diagnosed with oral cancer will surpass the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer -- another HPV disease -- by 2020, he said.

Beresford also noted that more women produce an immune response to HPV infection than men.

A government committee is considering whether to extend the HPV vaccination to adolescent boys, men who have sex with men, or both, according to the story.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 to 12 years.

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