The scientist who developed a vaccine for cervical cancer is working on another inoculation against certain types of skin cancer that could be available in five years time.
Mr Frazer, who delivered his findings to the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress, said a vaccine for children aged 10 to 12 could be available in five to 10 years.
The jab would protect against squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer, but not the more deadly melanomas.
It works by targeting papillomavirus, a common infection which can turn abnormal cells into cancerous cells and is believed to cause at least five per cent of all cancers.
Mr Frazer helped develop the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, which is now used to inoculate millions worldwide. He hopes the skin cancer vaccine would work in a similar way.
“What we’ve learnt together, through the study of animal models, is that the skin has natural defences which switch off killer T cells,” he told the conference.
“We’ve also found a number of ways to overcome these blocks and let the immune system work.
“We now want to test vaccines based on this knowledge in clinical trials, to find out whether we can develop vaccines that could be used to treat people at risk of skin cancer.”
Australia suffers from the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with 1,600 people dying from the disease each year. About 400,000 people are diagnosed with non-melanoma cancers in the county, and 400 people die as a result.
Mr Frazer warned there was still no substitute for staying out of the sun.
“In the future, just as the cervical cancer vaccine will complement the cervical cancer screening program, I hope that a skin cancer vaccine will be available to help in the prevention of skin cancer, but we’ll still need to stay out of the sun.”
But cancer specialists have agreed.
Professor Ian Olver of the Australian Cancer Council said that even if the vaccine was proved to work in humans, the normal rules of sun exposure would not change.
“The traditional prevention messages of staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, covering up and using sun screen still apply.
“This would be an extra layer of protection.”
Despite it limitations, Mr Olver said the discovery of the vaccine was “a good sign for the future”.
“It is possible other vaccines could flow from this,” he said.