Study: Young gay men need HPV vaccine as they are 15 times more likely to develop genital cancer

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

There’s growing calls for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to be extended to young gay men in the UK, because they have an increased risk of developing cancer, new research has shown.

According to a study published in the journal “Sexually Transmitted Infections”, young gay men are 15 times more likely to develop genital cancer than straight men.

The researchers claim that it would be more cost effective to the NHS to offer young gay men the HPV vaccine at sexual health clinics as a preventive measure rather than to treat cancers once they have developed.

HPV can cause cervical, penile, anal and throat cancers, as well as genital and anal warts.

The vaccination programme against HPV began in 2008 in the UK, but only among girls, on the grounds that this would curb the spread of the infection to boys as well.

Heterosexual men gain protection from the virus through herd immunity if women are vaccinated, but no such protection is afforded to gay men.

In January, the British Medical Association (BMA) told the Department of Health that the vaccine should be extended to young gay men.

Conservative MP Mike Freer has campaigned extensively at Westminster to get the government to address the issue.

During a Commons debate with Health Minister Anna Soubry on 2 July, Ms Soubry confirmed she would instruct the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) “to look at how best to vaccinate boys, girls, women and men” as a “matter of urgency”.

Receiving the vaccination privately for those who are not eligible for the HPV programme can cost between £297 – £522, but Ms Soubry suggested it was wrong to expect gay men to pay for it.