Some 100,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in Britain in the next 40 years by a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cancers of the cervix, mouth, anus and genitals, UK health officials said on Tuesday.
|The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has significantly reduced the incidence of cervical cancer (Photo: AFP/JOE RAEDLE)
Announcing the extension of a vaccination programme to cover boys as well as girls, experts at Public Health England (PHE) said the immunisation plan would prevent around 64,000 cervical cancers and nearly 50,000 non-cervical cancers by 2058.
This would be 50 years after the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme in Britain - which began in girls in 2008 - when people who were vaccinated as teenagers might otherwise begin to develop HPV-related cancers, PHE said in a statement.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus linked to more than 99 per cent of cervical cancers, as well as 90 per cent of anal cancers, about 70 per cent of vaginal and vulvar cancers and more than 60 per cent of penile cancers.
PHE said that from September this year boys aged 12 and 13 in Britain will be offered the shots as part of a government health programme.
Since UK girls began getting the HPV vaccine in 2008, studies have shown that infections with some key types of the virus have fallen by 86 per cent in 16 to 21 year-olds in England.
A Scottish study also showed the vaccine had reduced pre-cancerous cervical disease in women by up to 71 per cent.
Robin Weiss, a professor of viral oncology at University College London, said the extension of the HPV programme "should be a win-win situation".
"The HPV vaccine has enjoyed 10 years of success in protecting girls from acquiring cervical cancer as women," he said in an emailed comment. "It appears clear ... that vaccinated boys will themselves benefit from not getting cancer of the penis, anus, and a diminished risk of head and neck cancer."