LONDON (Reuters) – 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.
Announcing the extension of a vaccination program to cover boys as well as girls, experts at Public Health England (PHE) said the immunization 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 program 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% of cervical cancers, as well as 90% of anal cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers and more than 60% 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 program.
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% 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%.
Robin Weiss, a professor of viral oncology at University College London, said the extension of the HPV program “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.”
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)