Sask. expands HPV vaccine program to include boys

Province reminds Sask. parents Grade 6 boys can be vaccinated against HPV

One of the changes announced in this week's Saskatchewan budget includes $750,000 to begin a human papillomavirus vaccine program to protect Saskatchewan boys and men from cancer.

The new money expands the HPV vaccine program that has been offered to Grade 6 girls since 2008.

"This important decision to vaccinate Saskatchewan boys will prevent many types of cancers in the future, and thus save lives and health-care dollars," said Donna Ziegler, the Canadian Cancer Society's cancer control director.

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There are more than 100 different types of HPV, but according to the Cancer Society, the majority of HPV-related cancers are caused two types that can be almost entirely prevented through vaccination.

Men at risk 

In its news release, the Canadian Cancer Society quoted 2016 statistics that show the rate of HPV mouth and throat cancers increased 56 per cent among males over a 20-year period, and that men are more than four times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than women.

"As a surgeon treating patients with HPV-related cancers and a father of four boys, I am very excited that the Ministry of Health will be providing the HPV vaccine to boys and girls alike," said Gary Groot, director of surgical oncology at the University of Saskatchewan.

A report by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that about 1,200 Canadians die from HPV-linked cancers annually.

That same report suggested that HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world.