Specialist calls for HPV education

In collaboration with the Press Association

A leading professor has called for greater public education about the human papiloma virus (HPV) and a vaccine that has the potential to eradicate cervical cancer.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Women who get cervical cancer have had past infections with certain types of the virus.

The vaccine, which is most effective when administered before girls become sexually active, has angered some conservatives who claim that treatment at 13 condones teenage sex.

Speaking at the fourth International Conference on Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Medicine in London yesterday, professor Henry Kitchener of the University of Manchester said that it is "vital" that parents understand the context of the vaccine.

"The best way to stop any disease caused by a virus is to prevent it with a vaccine, and the best time to administer that vaccine is before any exposure to the virus," said Dr Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK.

"We know that HPV is sexually transmitted so vaccinating girls before they become sexually active is going to be the best time to do this.

"If HPV vaccines are shown to be safe and effective then any vaccination programme must include education and information for both parents and children. The vaccines are showing promise and have the potential to save the lives of countless women.

"Cancer Research UK has approved a trial that looks at whether women over 26 can benefit from being vaccinated against the virus. If this trial is successful, even more women will benefit from the vaccine," she added.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women under the age of 35 in the UK. Around 3,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

Find out more about cervical cancer

Visit the NHS cervical cancer screening programme homepage