Raising Awareness of Cancers Caused by HPV

Immunisation nurses from NHS Forth Valley have begun visiting secondary schools across the area to raise awareness of the forthcoming national HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination programme for boys and girls. These awareness raising sessions are being delivered to pupils and staff and will also feature at parents’ evenings.

This is the first year in Scotland that boys will be eligible for the vaccine which protects against two of the HPV subtypes which cause over 75% of cervical cancers and two other HPV subtypes that are associated with more than 90% of genital warts.

NHS Forth Valley Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Dr Henry Prempeh, said: “This vaccine has been shown to provide long-term protection against a virus known to cause head and neck cancers, cervical and penile cancers and genital warts.

“It is particularly important to have this protection in place before young people become sexually active and this is an opportunity for parents to ensure that their child is protected from developing a range of HPV related cancers in later life.”

HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus which can be caught through any kind of sexual contact with another person who already has it. Around four in five people in Scotland are likely to catch HPV before they are 25. People are often infected with HPV without knowing it as there are usually no symptoms and they can therefore unknowingly pass the virus on to others. Most people who become infected with HPV clear the virus from their body, but others may develop a range of cancers in later life. These include head and neck cancers which are more common in men.

Public Health Minister, Joe FitzPatrick, added: “I am proud that Scotland will now offer the HPV vaccination to boys in S1. Evidence has shown that high uptake of the HPV vaccine amongst girls, which was first introduced in 2008, has reduced levels of cancer-causing HPV in young women in Scotland by 90%.

“Extending the vaccination to S1 boys will help to further reduce diagnoses of HPV related cancers and save lives in years to come. I would encourage all those who are eligible to take up the offer of vaccination.”

All secondary schools in Forth Valley have been contacted and dates arranged for vaccination sessions for the S1 year group. These will begin in February 2020 and parents will be notified with details in advance of the sessions.

Background information

HPV is very common and can be caught through intimate sexual contact with another person who already has it. More than 70% of unvaccinated people will get it at some point in their life. People are often infected without knowing it as there are usually no symptoms. Most people who become infected with HPV clear the virus from their body, but others may develop a range of cancers in later life caused by the HPV virus. Having the vaccine is important because it is not possible to predict who will develop cancer or genital warts.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been offered to girls in Scotland from S1 since 2008. From academic year 2019/20, the HPV vaccine will be offered to S1 boys across Scotland as well. This is because the evidence now shows that the HPV vaccine helps protect both boys and girls from HPV-related cancers.

Immunisation helps protect against the HPV virus, which can lead to cancers such as:

  • head and neck cancers
  • cervical cancer (in females)
  • anogenital cancers (e.g. anal and penile (penis) cancer, cancer of the vagina and vulva)
  • some people may also develop genital warts, which can sometimes be difficult to treat.

For more information visit NHS Inform