Dating apps such as Tinder are increasing people’s risk of catching a cancer-causing virus passed on through oral sex, dentists warn.
Experts say almost half of adults will be infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV) at some point in their life.
And while most infections disappear on their own, without even displaying symptoms, some strains can lead to cancer, notably cervical, which in around 90 per cent of cases is caused by HPV.
It is also linked to penile, anal, throat, head and neck cancer, as well as genital warts. Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, 72, blamed oral sex for giving him throat cancer in 2010.
The HPV vaccination is currently given to girls aged 12 to 13 but not boys.
Now the dentists’ union claims the advisory body which has recommended the Government do not to extend the potentially life-saving jab to boys has based its ruling on flawed data and inaccurate estimates of the number of cancers caused by HPV.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced its interim decision in July that giving the vaccine to teenage boys is not cost-effective.
Dentists are often the first to spot the symptoms of a number of HPV-related cancers during check-ups.
The British Dental Association (BDA) told The Sun: ‘Data used to model sexual behaviour are out of date, and factors such as the recent introduction of dating apps may have led to significant changes in behaviour over the last few years, which have not been taken into account.’
Mick Armstrong, chairman of the BDA, said the decision will cost lives and that the JCVI is withholding evidence.
‘It is shocking that 400,000 boys can be left at risk of oral cancer thanks to a decision that cannot be properly scrutinised,’ he said.
‘Based on the scant information the JCVI has made public, its verdict is based on false assumptions.
‘Whether by accident or by design they have understated cancer risk, and completely ignored the sexual habits of the Tinder Generation.’
‘Herd protection’ argument
The JCVI did acknowledge evidence that boys would benefit but says it backs the the ‘herd immunity’ theory.
Only girls are vaccinated on the grounds that men who only have sex with women would logically also be protected from transmission.
Its statement on the decision said: ‘The evidence considered clearly indicates that HPV is associated with a number of cancers which affect both sexes.
‘While there are some additional population level health benefits to both males and females by extending the programme to boys, impact and cost-effectiveness modelling indicates that adding boys is highly unlikely to be cost-effective in the UK.’
But experts have pointed out a weakness in the JCVI’s herd protection argument.
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, has previously said: ‘It all comes down to cost and how much benefit will be gained from vaccinating boys.
‘As increasing numbers of girls take up the vaccine then risk of heterosexual transmission decreases and the benefit of vaccinating boys diminishes.
‘But of course, this reliance on herd immunity doesn’t provide optimal benefit for boys who go onto have sex with other men in adulthood.’
JCVI said its final decision would be made after further consultations.
Parents should not have to pay
Mr Armstrong said that only a gender neutral vaccination programme can control the rise of HPV, and that parents should not be forced to reach into their own pockets to protect their sons.
In April pharmacy chain Boots UK launched a new private vaccination service from the age of 12 to 44.
For 12 to 14-year-olds it costs £300 for a course of two vaccinations. For those over 15, three vaccinations is required which costs £450.
But campaigners argue that a free NHS programme will encourage the best uptake,
A recent survey carried out by HPV Action of over 1,500 British GPs and dentists revealed that 95 per cent believe the national HPV vaccination programme should cover both boys and girls.
TV presenter Dr Christian Jessen backs the calls and said it is important to give the jab to boys when they are 12 or 13 – before they are sexually active.
‘The vaccine will not work effectively if a person has already been infected by HPV,’ he previously told MailOnline.