A vaccine given to young girls that protects Britain's heterosexual population from the human papilloma virus (HPV) should be made available to gay men, say the British Medical Association (BMA).

Since September 2008, there has been a national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 against the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The BMA suggest this programme should be extended to gay men and has written to health minister Anna Soubry in support of the change.

In a statement, the BMA note that recent data from Australia shows heterosexual men gain protection from the virus through herd immunity if women are vaccinated, but no such protection is afforded to gay men.

Doctors are concerned about ‘alarming’ rates of HPV-related disease among gay men, according to Pulse, which can include penile, anal and throat cancers, as well as genital and anal warts.

The Independent reports that the specialists write: “We believe that a vaccination programme.. would be of enormous benefit in reducing the incidence of anal warts, anal pre-cancer and cancer, as borne out in Australia.”