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60seconds Sam: Jaime Winstone on the dangers of oral sex

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Sam Naz Sam Naz | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

If there's one thing we're not afraid to do here at BBC Three, it's tackle those subjects that some might think of as taboo. So with that in mind, I set off to interview actress Jaime Winstone about...oral sex.

There was a very good reason for my chat with the Kidulthood and Made in Dagenham star, her new documentary Is Oral Sex Safe? looks into the links between oral sex and oral cancer.

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While most of us know that having unprotected sex can lead to STIs, like Chlamydia or Herpes, how much do you know about HPV? Had you even heard of it?

Well, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is common. It lives in the skin and can be passed on through sexual contact. Cancer Research UK says there are more than 100 different strains of HPV and most of us are likely to get it at some point in our lives. But there's no need to panic. Most people won't get any symptoms and it usually goes away without treatment. So the virus may be common, but the chance of it turning into anything cancerous is slim. The reason why schoolgirls are vaccinated against HPV is to protect them from cervical cancer. The virus is the main cause of this type of cancer and it's believed that the vaccination programme will save hundreds of lives each year.

But researchers told Jaime that the rates of HPV-related oral cancers are going up - and that men are at most risk of getting it - so she's keen for boys to be offered the jab too. Professor Margaret Stanley, who's an HPV expert at Cambridge University, says she's seen a steep rise in oral cancer caused by HPV in the last couple of years. It's estimated that around 700 people are affected a year in the UK and experts say the numbers are rising faster among young adults.

However, the Department of Health says it needs more evidence. The government's director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, says other areas of health will suffer if he spends money "irresponsibly". He says they'd have to vaccinate around 300,000 boys every year and questions whether it's going to be cost effective and asks whether it is a good use of money.

You can watch Is Oral Sex Safe? presented by Jaime Winstone tonight at 9pm on BBC Three.

Let us know what you think? Do you think everyone should be offered the vaccination even if other areas of health may suffer?

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Journalist Sam Naz presents the 60seconds news bulletins on BBC Three


  • Comment number 1.

    I was diagnosed with tongue cancer in the year 2000 at the age of 29. At the time I was unaware of the risks HPV had on my health. 10 years on it would appear I was very lucky to survive thanks to extensive surgery that has left me with obvious scaring to my neck.
    I am so grateful that the dangers of oral sex are now public knowledge.
    It is obvious to me that boys should be vaccinated against HPV.
    The argument of the cost of vaccination needs further analysis. During my treatment the link between HPV and my cancer were not linked until years later….

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree with the government that they can't spend so much money on something that is so rare - it would cost a fortune to vaccinate everyone. But they need to do something now. They need to start spending money on proper research to see what the best way is to reverse the rising numbers, otherwise we could have a major problem in 10 years time. They also need to stop wasting money on stupid things like that happiness survey I read about a while ago. That money should have been spent on valuable research like this issue to see the real scale of the problem.

    Well done Jamie Winstone and BBC for at least raising the issue. Hopefully more people will educate themselves about HPV and the vaccine now.

  • Comment number 3.

    Nothing is safe in this world.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    As a health professional I have known about risks of oral sex, and many of us have also shared that knowledge to the public for years, but if they want to take notice, is a different issue altogether. Just look at the issue of smoking, and education.

    Sadly many of ouur society find the only way to learn is by experience, rather than cognitive!

  • Comment number 6.

    If you have multiple sexual partners, whatever you do, you put yourself and them at grave risk.

  • Comment number 7.

    i dont mean to be sexist but...why is it only females get all the screenings and vaccinations?i suppose if testicle and prostrate cancer were 'womans-problems',then they to would be screened and vaccinated.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oral sex is simply disgusting and abhorrent. It degrades those who indulge in such a deviant practise and it is no surprise that it carries a serious health risk. The very term used nowadays "blow job" says it all and one wonders to what depths of depravity some people will sink to satisfy their utterly base instincts? Why pretend otherwise and let's call a spade a shovel!

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I would be interested to know if HPVs can be caught by non sexual ways or if it is only transmitted by sexual contact. If it is, in the future when most women are immune to the disease because of the vaccination program, the only way men will be able to co catch it is from homosexual contact and only gay males would need to be inoculated. ...can of worms or what.

    BTW HPV doesn't just cause oral cancer. It is also linked to penile cancer and in gay men, anal cancer.

  • Comment number 11.

    Whoever thinks men are going to

    a) Take advice about this?
    b) Go to a doctor if anything develops?
    c) Even watch the programme?

    The reality of the opportunity will negate any advice (it'll never happen to me syndrome)

    Men don't visit doctors as they can't stand being lectured on giving things up they didn't do there for and taking trousers down

    Watching medical programmes is dull unless there is female nudity (or it's being presented by Nigella or similar) and only then when there is no football to watch, drinking to do or better things on another channel

    Cynical maybe, but I think this is the reality

  • Comment number 12.

    **do there for should have read 'go there for' a typo

  • Comment number 13.

    Leave it alone, you're in a wrong hole !!

  • Comment number 14.

    Blimey! Not going (down) there again. Sorry ladies.

  • Comment number 15.

    Yes, well done for raising this under-reported issue. We campaign to raise awareness and change policy on HPV as part of I note the stories in the rest of the media most notable the Daily Mail. Of course this exposure will help if only to ensure more young girls are given the vaccine. As pointed out boys are not vaccinated in the UK. Even girls arguably get the poorer of the two vaccincs available. For gay men and those with HIV, HPV is very common. Jane Moore did much to raise this issue and am really pleased you have taken the time to raise this for a younger generation.

  • Comment number 16.

    Yet another cancer that affects men, which appears to get very little acknowledgement or publicity. The fact that the Government relies on vaccinating women to protect men is mind-blowing. How does that protect gay men? It doesn't. Even if the NHS doesn't offer free vaccinations for all men, they should at least subsidise the price, or offer it free to gay men. £300 - £400 is simply unaffordable for most people. Well done to Jaime Winstone and BBC3 for highlighting this important issue.

  • Comment number 17.

    More scaremongering claptrap. I suspect Ms Winstone (or anyone else) is much more likely to be killed or seriously injured through not wearing a seat belt in the back seat of a car (filmed at least twice during the programme not doing so) than of contracting cancer through oral sex.

  • Comment number 18.

    there is no evidence that HPV vaccines prevent cancer either cervical or oral.
    they simply have not been around long enough .

    safe sex and screening is what the BBC should be promoting and not running an informercial for a Glaxo.

  • Comment number 19.

    What the programme failed to make clear is that the vaccine does not stop you getting cancer! The vaccines available currently provide protection against high risk HPV type 16 and 18 which account for approximately 70% of cervical cancer. Therefore having 'the jab' will reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

    Someone commented that us in the UK have got the poorer of the 2 jabs. This is incorrect. Cervarix has been shown to provide cross protection against the other high risk strains of HPV and if I was going to have either of the jabs I would definately go for Cervarix. Furthermore the data suggests that the antibody levels in the blood are higher with Cervarix than with Gardasil (after 8 years of research).

    It must be stressed cleary again that approximately 80% of the sexually active population will acquire one or more strains at some point and that approximately 85-90% of us will clear the virus spontaneously. For those of us in the 10-15% left it will remain dormant for the majority. Most of us will never even know.

    The programme certainly educates about HPV but it must be stressed that it is a normal consequence of being sexually active. Unfortunately a very small number from that 80% who acquire HPV, less than 1% will develop cancer.

  • Comment number 20.

    I am actually quite angry after watching this program. I am a young girl who has just passed the age to get the cervical cancer vaccination free and like many other young people i was never educated so didnt see any reason the get the vaccine. I think the people getting this jab should atleast be told about hpv!

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Why is it that the BBC is the only news agency that's making a big deal out of this? I believe the reasearch was done 2 or 3 years ago so why is it being pushed so hard now? This is even on google news as if it were real news. As has been mentioined this problem affects a minority of people so i'll ask again why is the BBC being so disproportioinate? BBC scaremongering is nothing new but this one is just weird if you think about it in news terms. If you think about it in ratings terms though it makes perfect sense. Put the words 'oral sex' in the title and have a semi attractive teenage looking girl present it on BBC3 and your'e guarenteed great ratings. We pay for this crap, if I wanted tabloid sensationalism I'd pay the 50p for the sun. Stop wasting my money on rubbish BBC and do some real health news programming as apposed to tabloid style scaremongering. Remember who you work for!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm so pleased that this has been documented as my step dad had been diagnosed with throat cancer last July which was caused due to HPV virus. Since finding out that it was the HPV virus I have been wanting to spread awareness about it and do some fund-raising to make it so young men can get the jab too. I received all my vaccines last year.Although my step dad is 50 and could not receive it I've wanted to spread awareness to young men and push for them to have it as my family has learnt there are so many young men fighting cancer due to this virus. My step dad finished his treatment on Christmas eve and is now in recovery. It is extremely important that we spread awareness about HPV and cancer as although cancer is a wide spread issue, until you are involved with the illness personally, you really have no idea how terrible it is, I was overwhelmed when taking my step dad to his radiation and sitting in the waiting room. My step father during the whole process has been unable to eat, he is being fed via a peg that goes directly into his stomach. He is only just being able to drink from his mouth now which we are extremely happy about, we're just taking it one day at a time and just hoping and praying that come march when he gets his check up that the cancer has gone and not come back. Our situation is extremely hard as he is in Australia fighting this. As much as my mother and I would love be to be there with him throughout all of this financially we just can't. The reason he is in Australia is that in july 2009 he came over to England to get a PHD in medieval history, He ended up meeting my mother and they fell in love and are now engaged, the following July his studies over here had finished,so he returned home to Australia with my Mum who went back with him for a month. The plan was for him to sort out all his things in australia and move him,his daughter and brother over to England in March where in summer my mother and he would get married.After a week of my Mum returning home from Australia my step dad went to the hospital due to a sore throat and what he thought was a ear infection, but sadly turned out to be throat cancer. It had been so hard being apart through this and I've found it extremely hard trying to keep my mum positive , thankfully we saved enough money to go visit him for Christmas and New years, I was extremely overwhelmed with his weightloss he looked near anorexic, but in the time we were there he had gained alot of weight. Seeing him was priceless. Now my mother and I are back home and we skype to him everyday. Staying strong and praying for the best.

  • Comment number 24.

    What affects the lives of more people each year: cancer triggered by HPV or accidents while not wearing a seatbelt in the back of a car or taxi?

    Now could you ask Jaime why she thinks it is acceptable to not be wearing a belt at all in the taxi, and certainly didn't have a belt over her shoulder in the car- and quite possibly not wearing it at all there either. It's a really bad example to set in a documentary about risk and prevention.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think this program really brings up the awareness of HPV infected oral cancer. However, because of high cost of vaccine -300 pound per shot, the boys could not get the jabs for free and those who have less spare money could not afford it as well. SO it is raised the question that why the vaccine is so expensive anyway. Should it be the responsibility of the pharmaceutical companies or research institutions to reduce the cost of production to make it affordable?

  • Comment number 26.

    The overwhelming message for me is that alongside the medical interventions, the government should absolutely be directing the tools for provention physically with the provention via education.

    Having left school 10 years ago I can relate the difference between boys and girls education sex-wise. I think it was very poignant that the guys interviewed from the dance collective were under the impression the weren't at risk as only the girls in their school were offered the jab for protection.

    Thank you to Jamie Winstone and her ability to make all interviewed feel connected to the cause and not undre any pressure in the interview situation. Hats off for pursuing this and bringing it to light for many to learn from.

  • Comment number 27.

    The reason provided for why the NHS won't offer HPV vaccine to males is that it is not cost effective: it would cost more to vacinate than to treat the infected and presumably cancerous victims.

    So the NHS is accepting a certain 'collateral damage' to its cost decision.

    Question is how many times have they done this? How many other risks are going unchecked because the NHS have calcuated it is cheaper to deal with the fallout.

    Seems to me the NHS should publically list every instance of when it is forgoing preventative treatment for treatment of the resulting disease with the risk assessment, so that people can have the option individually to go private if this isnt' being done already?

    But staying silent about it until someone happens to make a programme about it is in my opinion bordering upon criminal neglect if not democracy itself.

  • Comment number 28.

    And another thing is, isn't it aganst the universal declaration on human rights to discrimate on sexual grounds: the NHS policy of not providing HPV vaccination to males is in effect prejudiced against homosexuals?

  • Comment number 29.

    Sounds like commenter no. 8, Alfred Penderel Bright, hasn't experienced oral sex himself! What a medieval comment. I certainly never feel "degraded".

    Anyway, everything is bad for you now. Studies have shown that if you are alive, you will eventually die of something. No vaccination will prevent that.

  • Comment number 30.

    Who's Jamie Winstone anyway? Or Jaime (a boy's name in Spanish) as I saw on the BBC website.

    Ah, the daughter of Ray Winstone (I looked her up on Wikipedia). Does she have any legitimate reason for being here then?

    The thing is, to ask "Is Oral Sex Safe?" is meaningless (except for grabbing the punters' attention). Nothing is safe, it depends on what you set as the limits.

  • Comment number 31.

    This program highlighted everything that is wrong with popular scientific journalism today! I'm all for raising awareness of HPV amongst young people but this type of sensationalism is ridiculous. As someone with a very current biomedical background including cancer, specifically that caused by HPV I found the program at best ignorant and at worst deliberatly damaging to the NHS and the way our internationally respected health service is run.
    Firstly, the presenter of the program, Jaime Winstone, seems unable to weigh up all the evidence to form a cohesive argument, constantly clinging on to the same point and repeating it as if that gives it credence. Yes it is a shame that we can't vaccinate all males against HPV as well, purely for the fact that this would increase our herd immunity against the virus and hopefully lead to a reduction in cervical cancer, 70-90% of which is linked with HPV infection. However cancer isn't as simple as that and it is well known that for cancer to occur there must be multiple insults to the cell so viral infection alone will not be the only factor.
    Now to oral cancer, a VERY rare form of cancer, the incidence of which was not even metioned in the program. The only information we were given is that the PROPORTION of cases of HPV infected oral tumours being identified is on the increase. This should not be confused with an increase in the cases reported and does not identify HPV as causal. This increased proportion could be due to a decrease in other types of oral cancer say, linked to smoking (wasn't there a ban on that in public places a while ago could that mean less people are doing it therefore less cases of oral cancer?) or it could just mean that doctors are now looking for and diagnosing HPV more than they were in 2000 as it is the fashionable virus to try and link with cancer after all the fuss about the vaccine. Nor was the risk of getting oral cancer from HPV established, a pretty vital piece of information if you're going to base a whole argument around this.
    Then there is the question of money. When Jaime turned to the camera after speaking to the man in charge of NHS funding allocations and said: "I'm disapointed that this is all about money" I momentarily lost it. Yes it is all about money, EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS ABOUT MONEY! We live in a capitalist society, if you want something you pay for it. The fact that due to the increasingly stringent screening processes it now costs up to $803 MILLION to bring a drug to market it is hardly fair to critisise drug companies for charging £300 for this vaccine, many of the drug companies are in dire financial positions at the moment and I for one would rather they continue to exist. The government has a limited budget for the NHS so a significant tax increase would be necessary to decrease the chance of getting this very rare cancer (by vaccinating all boys).
    And to my final point, which interestingly was also the final point of the program, I have nothing but respect for the father who had survived his battle with oral cancer, I can not begin to imagine what he has been through and wish him nothing but the best. However, his opinion on whether all boys should get the jab is anything but objective, of course he's going to want to stop people getting the cancer, he HAD cancer! I believe it was a BBC Mitchell and Webb program that highlighted this cheap journalistic tactic with their train safety sketch, where a family member of a victim was interviewed about the government decision to not fund new train safety measures.
    Regarding the son of the oral cancer survivor I would imagine that with a sympathetic GP he could probably get the vaccine for free anyway as it is certainly avilable to women outside of the government's specified age range if their family has a history of HPV linked cancer and I would imagine that this would also apply to the child. If not, the BBC should fork out the £300 as it made such a huge deal about the vaccine. Was this program funded by the drug company making the vaccine by the way?

    27 - yes, thats how any health service works, if a drug isn't cost effective it won't be made available on the NHS. Once again limited budget and there are alot of diseases in the world. Regretably we can't treat them all.
    29 - great comment, it's what we we're all thinking

  • Comment number 32.

    I find it hard to place my trust in the medical legitimacy of a documentary when the presenter so frequently uses the outdated terminology of STD and not STI. I half expected the phrase "died of AIDS" to slip out.

  • Comment number 33.

    The arguments over personal cost are ridiculous! What does the ordinary punter pay to insure their car for a year? Probably about £300-£400 PER YEAR. This vaccination costs that to insure your child's life from a potentially deadly disease with minimum risk FOR LIFE. Now that's a no-brainer.

  • Comment number 34.

    31 - Couldn't agree more! Overall - the programme was total sensationalism - like the NHS being about money - TV journalism/documenarism is about getting viewers. But apropos my previous comment - the expert from the women's health clinic who spoke about the individual benefit of the vaccine is the only one who crystallised the argument into a coherent approach.

  • Comment number 35.

    I have watched this with interest after friends and colleagues have been quite worried by this . I have to say , after bracing myself , I was amazed to find the information very reassuring . no hard facts , even from the "expert". Rare , inconclusive cases with other factors suspected as causes .Scaremongering at its best.

  • Comment number 36.


    "Length of protection
    Research has shown that the HPV vaccine provides effective protection for at least six years after completing the three-dose course. It is not known how long the vaccine's protection will last beyond this time."

    Girls aged 12 are getting the vacination. Erm...12+6= 18 years old. You wait till your married and have sex at 25. Do you need another jab?

  • Comment number 37.

    Human Papillomavirus causes genital warts. Genital warts is a herpes symptoms. There are a different types of herpes: genital herpes, herpes zoster and herpes simplex. Herpes is a very dangerous disease.

  • Comment number 38.

    An important point not mentioned was that 2009 research from John Hopkins suggests that you can catch HPV-16 by open mouth kissing and not just oral sex!

    Now that should silence all those objecting to wider availability of the vaccine.

    'Oral Sexual Behaviors Associated with Prevalent Oral Human Papillomavirus Infection'

    See source No. 64:

  • Comment number 39.

    7 Ddandyy - Screening programs and testing for men have been mooted over the years and are usually abandoned for this reason; poor patient compliance. Men are far less likely than women to present themselves to be poked and prodded about when they feel perfectly well, and that they will avail themselves of health services when they feel something is actually wrong with them. Campaigns aimed at men are often aimed at women, in the hope that mens partners will do the nagging for them. In victorian times female prostitutes were dragged off the streets and subjected to medical "treatment" whether they wanted it or not and their male clients were ignored. A question of dignity and hoping treatment from only one side will cure the problem.
    There has been a conspicuous lack of males campaigning to be screened for any diseases and perhaps most men feel they don't need to be treated like little kids the way women are, and told to go to the doctors like good little girls. Very few cancers are picked up through random screening, most are patient discovered. There is some debate over whther the early cell changes picked up on cervical screening are actually within the bounds of normal and would go away on their own without aggressive treatment. As for the cost effectiveness of screening v treatment etc, cost effectiveness is an extremely random concept in the NHS.


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