Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Give Gardasil to boys too, experts say


Recent evidence shows the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer in women, is poised to become one of the leading causes of oral cancer in men because of changing sexual behaviours.

The findings have reignited the debate over whether boys should be given the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil.

A visiting British virologist, Professor Margaret Stanley, says governments around the world need to examine the long-term economic and health benefits of immunising boys and young men.

The head of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital, Professor Suzanne Garland, says Australia is leading the way in the rollout of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, which immunises against HPV.

"We are in our third year of rolling out the vaccine and we are in the order in the school-based group, in the high 70s, whereas in many other countries, they have only got 30 per cent who have been vaccinated," she said.

But now the vaccination debate has switched genders.

There are growing calls from the medical community for boys and young men to also be vaccinated against HPV.

Advocates include one of Britain's top cervical cancer specialists, Professor Margaret Stanley from Cambridge University, who says a cervical cancer jab in the arms of boys would not just be for the sake of girls.

"These HPVs don't just cause cancer in women. They cause it in men as well. Cancer in the mouth, cancer in the anus and those cancers are very hard to treat," she said.

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