The UK’s leading dental charity is appealing to the government to include males in a planned vaccination programme to guard against the sexually transmitted HPV virus.

The British Dental Health Foundation’s appeal was in response to a new large scale US study of 46,000 mouth cancer cases.

It found that the number of deaths caused by the sexually transmitted HPV virus has increased by a third over the last 30 years and is now the highest it has ever been.

The Department of Health has already agreed to introduce the HPV vaccine for all 12 and 13-year-old girls from September 2008 to guard against cervical cancer in the future.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, said:

“It is admirable that the government is taking such positive steps to reduce the number of cervical cancer cases for the women of the future but, with mouth cancer killing more people than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined, it is clear that this little known condition also needs to be addressed.

“By expanding its HPV vaccination programme to include boys as well as girls, the government would be able to address the problem of rising HPV-related mouth cancer deaths in a simple, fair and effective manner.

“With young people becoming progressively more sexually active this problem is not going to go away.

“It needs to be addressed and sooner rather than later.”

Mouth cancer kills one person every five hours in the UK and affecting more men than women.

Using tobacco is the main risk factor for the condition, closely followed by drinking alcohol to excess.

“People need to take steps to reduce their risk of developing the

condition; whether that be by cutting out smoking, by reducing their alcohol consumption or by taking a HPV test along with their partner,” said Dr Carter.

“With early detection increasing survival chances from one in two to nine out of ten, it is vital that people are aware of the symptoms of mouth cancer too.

“If you have an ulcer that doesn’t heal after three weeks or you notice a lump or a red or white patch in the mouth you should visit your dentist or doctor immediately.”