Figures published from the US are showing 70% of head and neck cancers are due to the human papilloma virus also known as HPV.

So what is HPV? Human papilloma virus is a group of viruses that affect the skin and moist membranes lining your body. It is contracted during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas. This also includes kissing.

When HPV is contracted by mouth it affects the oropharynx (the middle part of the throat), Studies have shown you are 250 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer if you have contracted the virus.

As HPV usually has no symptoms, it is highly recommended you are screened for the virus. For women this is covered in your pap test also known as a smear. Unfortunately for men there is no current test that is fully reliable so we not only urge you to get the vaccination but also look for small signs of infection such as genital warts or changes in your penile, scrotal, anal, or throat areas.

In the past it has been widely spoken about and linked to cervical cancer. In September 2008 national health authorities financed the HPV vaccination to be given to girls only. However given the evidence from years of research talks have now started on opening the vaccine up to boys between the ages of 9 and 15.

Since the extremely high numbers of cases being recorded in the UK people are now being urged to seek the injection as soon as possible.

Not only does the vaccine protect against cervical cancer, but also oropharynx cancer, genital warts anal cancer and some cases of vaginal and penile cancers to name but a few.

Possible side effects from the HPV vaccine
· Stinging, soreness and redness around the point of injection
· Headaches
· Fever
· Nausea

Since July of this year the human papillomavirus vaccine has become available in scotland to male members of the gay community (MSM) up to 45 years of age through sexual health and HIV clinics, we have so far had no mention of it being introduced in the same way in England, the vaccine is however available “off licence” to adults 40+ in my clinic.