- The virus responsible for cervical cancer in women is
being investigated as a cause of the rising number of cases of prostate
cancer in men.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection
which causes more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers, is caught by men
and women equally but there has been little research into HPV in men.
- Tim Oliver, professor of medical oncology at Barts and
The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, who is studying the possible
link, said: "There is an almost religious conviction that HPV causes
cervical cancer in women and it is clear that men and women are exposed
to the virus equally. Yet there has not been much interest in HPV infection
- He also believes that increased levels of unprotected
sex which began with the introduction of the Pill in the 1960s may account,
in part, for the rise in prostate cancers 20 years later.
- Prof Oliver's research, sponsored by the prostate cancer
charity Orchid, has already revealed evidence of HPV in archive samples
of prostate cancer tissue from the 1950s. Now he is planning a further
trial which will look for HPV in prostate tissue taken at recent post mortem
- The picture is complex because both HPV and prostate
cancer are common. But Prof Oliver says evidence is emerging that infections
of the prostate in young men may cause damage that predisposes them to
cancer in later life.
- "If this is the case and HPV is implicated, then
the long-term goal would be the development of a male HPV vaccine programme
in the future, which you would need to give to teenage boys," he said.
- Dr Richard Sullivan, the head of clinical trials at Cancer
Research UK, said the causes of prostate cancer needed to be understood
in order to develop preventive methods.
- There are more than 24,700 new cases of prostate cancer
diagnosed in the UK every year, with the disease killing 10,000 men annually.