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HPV vaccination in younger boys will help prevent oropharyngeal cancer, study finds

Vaccinating 12-year-old boys against HPV may be a cost-effective way of preventing a form of oropharyngeal cancer, according to new research.

A Canadian study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal from the American Cancer Society, suggests that HPV vaccination could save up to £80 for each boy vaccinated over their lifetimes by helping to precent prevent oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer.

The reduction in need for cancer treatment would be an important reason for savings being made, it said.

The team modelled the potential impact of vaccination with the quadrivalent HPV vaccine (HPV4), compared with no vaccination, using information on 192,940 boys who were 12 years old in 2012.

Assuming, 84% vaccine efficacy and 70% uptake among those boys offered the vaccine, the team found HPV4 would lead to 0.05 more quality-adjusted life years per individual - and a saving of $145 Canadian dollars (CAD), equivalent to around £79.

With just 50% vaccine efficacy and 50% uptake it would still lead to 0.023 more QALYs and a saving of $42 CAD, or £23, per person.

Overall that would mean a saving of between $8m and $28m CAD (£4m-£15m) over the whole population’s lifetime.

Dr Donna Graham, a Medical Oncology Fellow at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre who led the research, said: ‘We believe this study is important because HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer has increased significantly in incidence, especially in developed countries. It is projected that by 2020, HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer will become the most common HPV-related cancer in the US, surpassing cervical cancer.’

Her colleague Dr Lillian Siu called for more funding and provision to be made available for vaccination programmes worldwide, saying: ‘We hope that results from this study would raise awareness and lead to further assessment of this important public health issue.’

In Britain, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has previously called for gay men to be offered the HPV jab, while a study in 2013 suggested that women needed to be vaccinated before reaching the age of 20 to offer adequate protection against genital warts.

Cancer 2015; available online 13 April

Readers' comments (1)

  • Phil Yates

    We need to know if the research was sponsored by the manufacturer of the vaccine. How independent is it?

    There appears to be little no doubt though that changes in sexual practice have led to an increase in oral HPV related cancer in males and females.

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