Cancer Focus NI welcomes HPV vaccine for local boys

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has welcomed the news from the Department of Health that local boys aged 12-13 are to be offered a vaccine to protect them against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) related cancers.

From September this year the vaccine will be offered to all boys in year nine at school.

Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus Northern Ireland Gerry McElwee said: “We are delighted that the HPV vaccination will be extended to include adolescent boys. This is the best way to reduce preventable HPV related cancers.

“Each year 12,000 more boys in Northern Ireland were being left unprotected against HPV-related diseases and that was an unacceptable situation.

“Cancer Focus NI has advocated extensively to have this gender-neutral vaccine extended and we whole-heartedly welcome the news that our local boys will now benefit.

“We would encourage parents to ensure that both their sons and daughters get the vaccine.”

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can cause a range of cancers (cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oral (mouth and throat)), as well as genital warts. There has already been a vaccination programme for 12/13 year old girls here since 2008.

Last week, researchers said the vaccine had nearly wiped out cases of cervical pre-cancer in young women in Scotland since an immunisation programme was introduced there 10 years ago. They found the vaccine had led to a 90% cut in pre-cancerous cells. And they said the effects of the programme had “exceeded expectations”.

Cancer Focus NI has also welcomed the announcement that a new Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) will replace the Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test as the primary screening test for bowel cancer in the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) in Northern Ireland.

Mr McElwee said: “There is evidence that the public prefers the FIT screening test and if more people are prepared to take this test, then hopefully that will lead to earlier detection and treatment and better outcomes for patients.”