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When boys should get HPV cancer vaccine

Wednesday November 4th, 2009

Some countries may need to include boys in cervical cancer vaccination programmes to ensure its effectiveness, an expert says today.

Restricting the HPV cancer vaccine to girls has proved controversial - partly because the human papillomavirus - HPV - is thought to lie behind some cancers which men can get.

According to today's analysis, the British programme - which is successfully including most girls - will be effective.

But, according to Dr Emma Crosbie, there may be a case for vaccinating boys in some poor countries - where it may be difficult to ensure all girls are included.

Writing in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Crosbie, of Manchester University, UK, says there are other problems with restricting the vaccine to girls - for instance, that boys may not understand their responsibility for sexual health.

Another problem is that the virus can also cause cancer in gay men.

She said today: "The school-based HPV immunisation programme has been very well received overall, with uptake figures as high as 80 to 90 per cent in some areas of the UK. Maintaining good coverage is essential if we are to achieve a significant reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer in years to come.

"In addition to girls currently aged 12 to 13 years, those up to the age of 18 have been offered the vaccine as part of a one-off catch-up programme."

Pierre Martin-Hirsch, the journal's scientific editor, added: "HPV vaccination is an important way to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. I would strongly encourage parents and girls who are of age to take up the offer of the HPV vaccine."

Crosbie E, Brabin L. Cervical cancer: problem solved? Vaccinating girls against human papillomavirus. BJOG 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02369.x.

Tags: Cancer | Child Health | Flu & Viruses | Menís Health | UK News | Womenís Health & Gynaecology

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