injectionThousands of lives every year could be saved if boys were given the same HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination that protects girls from developing cervical cancer, according to a charity.

HPV Action, which is petitioning the UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to include boys in the programme, says that the virus, which can be sexually transmitted, is responsible for around 5% of cancers worldwide.

Campaigners say the jab, which is given to 12 and 13-year-old girls, would also be “hugely beneficial” to boys, too.

The HPV virus is very common, and doesn’t usually cause any health problems, but for some people, HPV infection can lead to the development of of certain cancers - vaginal, vulval, penile, anal, head and neck, as well as gential warts.

It is estimated that it would cost £24 million to vaccinate 367,000 boys aged 12 each year. However, HPV spokesman Peter Baker says: “We should be investing more in this programme because further down the health chain, it costs a colossal amount of money to treat cancer.”

He added: “ We are effectively discriminating against half the population. Canada, Australia and the United States all vaccinate boys and girls, Why is Britain different?”

The Department of Health is currently reviewing the situation.You can sign HPV Action’s petition at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/jeremy-hunt-uk-health-secretary-introduce-hpv-vaccination-for-boys-to-stop-many-preventable-cancers-3