Oncologists think that HPV jabs like Merck's Gardasil and GSK's Cervarix could prevent a range of 'mucosal' cancers beyond cervical cancer. The vaccines are currently indicated for prevention of cervical cancers and genital warts. Currently, only women under 26 can receive the shot, though some argue that boys should also be vaccinated to slow the spread of HPV.
"What's interesting is that we're finding--and we've known this for a while, but we're beginning to appreciate it--that HPV plays a role in other 'mucosal' cancers," Dr. Glenn Bauman, chairman of oncology at the University of Western Ontario, tells Canada's Edmonton Journal. Studies have found the common virus could be linked to head and neck cancers, cancers in the urinary tract and genital region; tonsils, pharynx, the digestive tract; and vulva, penis, vagina and anal cancer, according to the paper. And Bauman suspects other cancers may also have their roots in viruses. "Just the fact that a viral infection is responsible for some fairly significant cancers in people, and that we have a vaccine against it--I think that's novel and that represents a new direction," Bauman says.
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