A US cancer expert has called for health professionals to consider vaccinating young boys against the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Professor Maura Gillison, from Ohio State University in Columbus, put forward the suggestion after evidence showed that certain strains of the virus are linked to a rise in rates of mouth cancer.
According to data in the US, over the last two decades there has been a 200% increase in cases of oral cancer linked with HPV; with similar figures seen in the UK, Scandinavia and Australia.
A change in sexual behaviour and attitudes, particularly among pre-adolescent boys, is thought to be one of the causes for the increase.
People are more commonly aware that the HPV virus is linked to cervical cancer following the roll out of the UK vaccination programme in 2008 for girls aged 12 to 13.
Meanwhile, public support has also been shown to give the jab to boys to stop the virus spreading and avoid the development of genital warts and anal cancers.
Prof Gillison acknowledged that the idea of vaccinating children to prevent an infection associated with oral sex was "very, very controversial".
She said she told her patients, when asked, to go ahead and vaccinate their sons.
"The vaccine will protect them against genital warts and anal cancer and also as a potential byproduct of that it may protect them against oral cancer caused by HPV," she added.
Some of the most compelling recent evidence had come from Sweden, said Prof Gillison, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Washington DC.
Copyright © Press Association 2011
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"Yes, we have asking for this since 2007. Please take part in our poll at http://rdoc.org.uk/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/3441004042/m/4961054952 to show your support for boys to be vaccinated, too" - Dr Vinod K Joshi, Mouth Cancer Foundation
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