Including boys in Ontario’s HPV vaccination program a big win for cancer prevention

21 April 2016

Toronto -

Parents can celebrate that both their sons and daughters can now receive the HPV vaccine as part of Ontario’s school-based HPV immunization program. The government’s decision to expand the program to include boys makes Ontario the sixth province in Canada to provide equal access to a vaccine that can prevent cancer.

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cancer in men and women and will infect 3 in 4 Canadians during their lifetime. Canadian Cancer Society staff and volunteers have been working closely with other stakeholders, Members of Provincial Parliament at Queen’s Park and across Ontario to expand the immunization program to include boys.

“The time between initial HPV infection and development of cancer is about 20 years,” explains Rowena Pinto, Vice President, Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “We urge parents to get their sons and daughters vaccinated against HPV. It will help prevent them from getting cancer.”

HPV infection is associated with almost all cases of cervical cancer but the lesser known HPV-related cancers include anal, penile, vaginal and oral and oropharyngeal (head and neck) cancers. About one-third of oral and oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV and 89% of these are attributable to HPV types 16 & 18.

Canadian forecasts are not yet available, but the number of HPV-related head and neck cancer cases in the United States is expected to surpass cervical cancer within 4 years, underscoring the importance of including boys in school-based vaccination programs.

As part of the Society’s efforts to advocate for the inclusion of boys in the immunization program, a video featuring the story of Tiffany Bond, a cancer survivor whose type of throat cancer was caused by HPV, was released.

“When I was first diagnosed with oropharynx (throat) cancer it was a big shock. I had no idea it could be caused by the HPV virus,” says Bond, a Society volunteer. “After my near-death experience with the disease, I am thrilled that the government has taken this initiative. I just wish the vaccine was available to my son when he was younger. I would have had him vaccinated right away.”

Because of the long lead time, it may take several years before the full impact of HPV vaccination on the incidence and death rates of HPV-related cancers is established. Australia was one of the first countries to introduce a national HPV vaccination program for women 12 to 26. Three years later, the country is  already seeing a decrease in signs of early cervical cancer.

To learn more about cancer, HPV and the HPV vaccine, speak to one of cancer information specialists at 1 888-939-3333 or visit cancer.ca/HPVvaccine

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. For more information, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Susan Fekete

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 613-565-2522 ext 4985