Research is to be undertaken in Ireland to see if the HPV vaccine should be extended to boys.

The human papillomavirus vaccine is currently given to girls to help prevent cervical cancer, as part of the national immunisation scheme.

It was introduced for all girls in first year of secondary school in 2010/11.

There are other cancers associated with the virus that affect both men and women such as anal, genital and throat cancers.

The virus also causes genital warts.

The Health Information and Quality Authority has been asked by the Department of Health to undertake the assessment.

HIQA said that the vaccine has been proven to be highly safe and effective.

The results of the health technology assessment are expected next year.

Minister for Health Simon Harris described the move as "very significant" and called today the start of an important process.

He said if the assessment shows positive results, his department will work towards rolling out the vaccine for boys as quickly as possible.

In May, the Irish Cancer Society said it was concerned by the results of a report by the National Cancer Registry, which showed that the number of girls availing of the vaccine has almost halved over the past two years.