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Cervical cancer jabs for boys urged

The cervical cancer vaccination programme should be extended to teenage boys as they contribute to the transmission of the disease, according to an expert.

Dr Paul Yeo said although the vaccination programme was a welcome step in reducing deaths, by not vaccinating boys the government risked leaving a "pool of infected individuals" who could spread the virus to women later in life when the effect of the vaccination had potentially worn off.

He also suggested that cost may have been a factor in the government selecting the current vaccine over another which also protects against other harmful strains of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) - rather than just two of the strains.

The development of 70% of all cervical cancers can be linked to infection by human papillomaviruses.

From September 1, girls aged between 12 and 13 in the UK will be vaccinated against certain strains of HPV with a catch-up campaign for girls aged up to 18 starting in autumn 2009.

The jab, which is not compulsory, is expected to revolutionise the approach to beating the disease. The vaccine costs around �300 for a full course and will be given in three doses over a six-month period.

Dr Yeo, who specialises in virology and infectious diseases at Durham University's School of Medicine and Health, said: "I would question why boys are not included in this vaccination programme as it is, after all, a sexually transmitted disease which can lead to the cancer. Males can be considered the vehicle for the transmission of these viruses with the population."

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Do you think boys should be included in the HPV vaccination programme? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Boys should most definitely be vaccinated as promiscuity is a major factor in the spread of HPV. Boys historically are more so and pay less attention to hygiene, etc, and less likely to seek attention for STDs as they are more inhibited especially at a young age." - Shona Martin, Practice Nurse, Glasgow

"Yes I do - I think it's essential, especially with the increase of bisexual behaviour. What about the gay community? Why aren't they being protected?" - Tricia Lea-O'Mahoney, Manchester

"It's a bit chicken and egg situation. The vaccine helps prevent STD but where does this start. The female population who are not sexually active have quite a low incidence of cervical cancer. Does this beg the question that boys need to be the primary receiver of this vaccine?" - M Collin, Lancs

"In an ideal world yes. However, we do not have the funding or manpower to achive this. Therefore as it is girls who develop the disease and not boys they are the ones who must receive the vaccine." - Lynne Jones, Chester

"Of course boys play a factor in transmission of STDs including HPV. It would be great to offer vaccines to the males. But at what costs? Prevention is always better than cure." - V Henry, N15

"Absolutely! Dr Yeo has stated what lots of health professionals appear scared to voice. That it is an STD and I think its about time the lads started to take some responsibility." - Jacqui Hammond, Scotland