The British Medical Association has written to Anna Soubry, minister for Health, urging her to introduce HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccinations for young gay men attending sexual health clinics. They warn that there is an “alarming increase in anal cancer in gay men”. Anal cancer is rising at one to three per cent a year in most developed countries.
HPV vaccinations provide protection against the two commonest strains of the virus, which can cause cervical and anal cancer. From next September, the existing vaccine Cervarix is being replaced with Gardasil, which also protects against genital warts.
In the letter to Ms Soubry from the Dermatology and Venereology subgroup of the BMA, the specialists write: “We believe that a vaccination programme with Gardasil [for young gay men] would be of enormous benefit in reducing the incidence of anal warts, anal pre-cancer and cancer, as borne out in Australia.” HPV vaccination with Gardasil was introduced for girls in Australia in 2004 and is now to be extended to boys in the same age group (12 and 13). The authors of the BMA letter say they recognise that vaccinating all boys “is not economically viable in the UK at the moment”.