Gay men seeking HPV vaccine

In collaboration with the Press Association

Increasing numbers of gay men are requesting a vaccine which protects against a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical, penile and anal cancers.

The vaccine, offered by many private clinics, protects against the two strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that cause around 70 per cent of all cervical cancers in women.

One manufacturer?s vaccine also protects against other strains of the virus which can cause genital warts.

One Harley Street clinic told the BBC that dozens of men have each paid £450 for the three-dose course of the vaccine in recent weeks.

Critics have claimed that the vaccine offers little protection to adults who have already been sexually active for some years, however, as they may already be carrying HPV.

"Clearly it would be very important if the vaccine could protect," said Cancer Research UK clinical consultant Dr Anne Szarewski. "The problem is we do need proof.

"Men who have sex with men are at a much higher risk than average of anal cancer and genital warts, particularly if they are HIV-positive."

Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, added: "HPV vaccines have recently been developed to protect women from infection with some types of HPV. These strains are linked to about 70 per cent of cervical cancers. "Some strains of HPV have been associated with penile and anal cancers as well, so it is likely that vaccinating against the virus would give protection from these forms of cancer. However, there is no evidence of its effectiveness at preventing these cancers as yet. And in men, there are presently no data documenting the effects of HPV vaccines.

Pharmaceutical company Merck, which developed one of the recently launched HPV vaccines, is currently conducting trials into its effectiveness among men.