Amy Corderoy HEALTH
February 8, 2011
THE immunisation program that protects girls against the virus linked to cervical cancer should immediately be extended to boys to prevent other cancers, a leading epidemiologist says.
Vaccinating boys against the human papillomavirus (HPV) would help stem a drastic rise in some cancers, particularly among homosexual men, said Andrew Grulich, the head of the epidemiology and prevention program at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of NSW.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will consider next month an application to provide the Gardasil vaccine free to boys.
About 90 per cent of all anal squamous cell carcinomas are caused by infection with HPV.
But an unwillingness to discuss the disease had led to a lack of awareness and research, said Professor Grulich, the senior investigator on the project.
Anal cancer had increased by about 3.4 per cent annually in men and 1.9 per cent in women since 1982, according to the study published in the journal Vaccine.
Unpublished research by Professor Grulich and his team indicated that in some inner-city suburbs the rate of anal cancer was up to 30 times higher than in the general population.
He said the federal government should immediately include boys in its free HPV vaccination program.
“But we do have to recognise that even if we do that, just as it is for women, it could be 20 to 40 years before the maximum benefit is obtained,” he said.
He was developing a screening program to detect the early signs of problems caused by HPV.
Anal cancer linked to HPV infection occurred most commonly among women, many of whom said they did not have anal sex, Professor Grulich said.