Boys’ cancer risk increased without same vaccine as girls, say …

Teenage patient vaccination

The HPV vaccine is routinely offered to girls of 12 and 13 to reduce the risk of cervical cancer, but health groups say boys not given the vaccine are at greater risk of viruses linked to other cancers Photograph: Burger/Phanie/Rex

Boys are being denied protection against the risk of cancer because they are not routinely offered the same vaccination as girls, a coalition of 25 patient groups and health organisations has claimed.

The coalition has launched an online petition for a “gender-neutral” approach with the HPV vaccine, which is already offered to girls of 12 and 13 to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Several backbench MPs backed the idea last year and vaccination advisers to the UK government have already pledged to consider the move but now HPV Action is stepping up the pressure on ministers to follow the example of the US, Australia and some Canadian provinces.

The vaccination combats a family of viruses that are also linked to a number of cancers prevalent in men including anal and penile cancer and genital warts. Peter Baker, campaign director for HPV Action, said: “Vaccinating girls alone is not enough to tackle HPV. Men can still get the virus from unvaccinated women from the UK and other countries or from other men.

“It is simply unfair to deny boys in the UK the same level of protection as girls or as boys in Australia and other countries where both sexes are now routinely vaccinated. The HPV vaccination is one of the easiest ways of preventing cancer.”

An online poll of 1,336 parents by YouGov for the organisation last month found 64% agreed with boys and girls being vaccinated, with 11% disagreeing and 25% unsure, said HPV Action, which includes the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, the British Dental Association, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the Throat Cancer Foundation.

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