Schoolboys may receive vaccine to stave off cancer
Teenage lads to get jab to combat killer HPV
Published 17/07/2016 | 02:30
Schoolboys may be given a special vaccine to protect them from developing throat cancers arising from sexual activity in later life.
Research confirms there is now a direct link between cancer of the throat and oral sex.
Hollywood star Michael Douglas claimed the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) was the cause of his near-fatal cancer in August 2010.
He beat the odds by recovering from a stage-four tumour, which is often terminal.
A vaccine to fight the disease is currently available free of charge for all first-year female students in Ireland.
Usually given to girls aged 12 and 13, it is considered an inoculation against cervical cancer.
The vaccine protects against HPV - a common sexually transmitted infection.
There is currently no specific cure for the virus, which can lie dormant in the body for a number of years.
Professor Mark Lawler, of Queens University, Belfast, said there is a need to "act speedily" because of the increase in male throat cancer.
This means the HPV vaccine should be available to younger males, as is currently the case with girls.
The increased incidence of HPV has been partly blamed on changing sexual activity, particularly increased participation in oral sex.
This is one of the main mechanisms through which the virus is spread.
Read more: Global data 'strongly supports' HPV vaccine
In Ireland, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) makes recommendations on vaccination policy, and international best practice is taken into account, when arriving at a recommendation.
In a statement, the Department of Health told the Sunday Independent a universal HPV programme for boys would not be "cost-effective at this time".
However, it confirmed the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has been instructed to examine extending it to both sexes.
If this 'health technology assessment' suggests a national programme should include boys, the department will "consider" its recommendations.
Australia is currently the only country to run a free HPV vaccine programme which caters for both boys and girls.
Cancers caused by the virus mainly occur in the mouth, throat and cervix.
Cervical cancer, which can cause infertility, is the most common HPV-linked cancer in women.
Oropharyngeal cancers, which occur in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils, are the most common HPV-related cancers in men.
Latest figures from the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI) show cancers of the oropharynx - which are the sub-group of throat cancers most closely linked to HPV infection - increased in males from 93 in 2011, to 97 in 2013.
Under the broad definition of throat cancer, new figures show there was an increase from 285 cases in males in 2011, to 297 in 2013.