A recent study into the possible role of HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) in certain types of head and neck cancers has revealed some fascinating insights. The rate of HPV associated head and neck cancers, and in particular throat cancer has increased markedly over the last 4 decades. This is set against falling numbers of non-HPV induced head and neck cancers, giving strong argument to the fact that HPV is directly responsible for the majority of these illnesses.

Linked to these rising cancer numbers is clear evidence of increasing reported incidence of oral sex across the population, providing at least circumstantial evidence for how the virus is transmitted and why rates of HPV infection and these cancers are on the rise.

Improvements in HPV vaccines and broadening vaccination programmes provide hope that HPV infections will be better controlled leading to reductions in the cases of head and neck cancers which are being observed. However current vaccination programmes targeting young women only are likely to leave large sections of the population unprotected. There is evidence that boys and young men would also benefit from HPV vaccination and in particular vaccinating men who have sex with men would bring added protection to this group. Regular testing for HPV in both men and women offers an effective means for identifying infection and can raise personal awareness of the risks of head and neck cancers associated with HPV infection.

Better2Know offers testing for HPV in both men and women and also provides HPV vaccines at most of its clinics across the UK. Getting tested for HPV is the first step towards understanding your risk status and Better2Know will help you understand and decide what you should do if you test positive

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