Consistent with our mission to reduce global suffering from anal cancer and the virus that causes the majority of its cases, HPV, we are happy to announce that the Anal Cancer Foundation has registered as a charity in England and Wales (Charity No. 1147457).
The Anal Cancer Foundation aims to galvanize a global community of people working together for the same goal: preventing, identifying, and treating anal cancer and other HPV-associated diseases. The more people we connect to the cause, the greater chance we have in succeeding in our mission.
Broadening the conversation to the European continent is essential to improving awareness for the disease across a wide range of stakeholders: public officials, clinicians, scientists, patients and their families. The oppressive stigma surrounding anal cancer remains one of the central challenges to improving outcomes for patients of this rare disease. If you suffer from anal cancer anywhere in the world, you should not feel ashamed or socially isolated: 75% of sexually active people have been exposed to the virus that causes anal cancer at a certain time in their lives. Approximately 1,100 people will be diagnosed with anal cancer in the UK this year, with slightly more women getting the disease than men.
By expanding our operations to the UK, we hope to continue centralizing the scattered anal cancer community. In 2010, the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation led a coalition of organizations in testifying before the FDA in support of expanding the approval of Gardasil’s HPV vaccine for anal cancer prevention in males and females. The Foundation also led a coalition to support a routine recommendation for boys to get the vaccine in the USA. While the USA and Australia now both recommend the vaccine for boys, the UK, so far, has limited the licensing of the Cervarix vaccine to girls.
Given the high uptake of the vaccine in young girls in the UK, some argue that vaccinating boys is a poor use of the country’s resources, as many boys would already be covered via the benefits of herd immunity. Unfortunately, cost-benefit analyses of vaccinating boys often exclude important factors such as the sharp rise in HPV-related oral cancer in men. Furthermore, limiting vaccination programs to women completely precludes high-risk groups for anal cancer such as MSMs (men-who-have-sex-with-men) from protection. We warn against considering a recommendation for male vaccination based on sexual behavior: it would require self-reporting of sexual orientation, a sensitive issue, especially so among adolescent boys. By promoting a female-only campaign, we are sending an incorrect message that HPV is a single-sex issue. Both men and women harbor HPV infections and act as transmitters. The largest increases in HPV-associated cancer are occurring in men.