Nuns Should Go on the Pill, Says Lancet Study

Nuns should go on the Pill to reduce their chances of developing cancer, researchers say.

Nuns are said to pay a ‘terrible price for their chastity’.

By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Editor7:00AM GMT 08 Dec 2011

A paper in The Lancet claims that Roman Catholic nuns pay a “terrible price for their chastity”, as not having babies puts them at greater risk of breast, ovarian and uterine tumours.

This is because women who never give birth or breastfeed have more periods than those who do, and an increased number of menstrual cycles has been linked to higher cancer risk.

By contrast, the contraceptive pill has been shown to significantly reduce the chances of women developing ovarian and uterine cancers without increasing breast cancer risk.

Australian scientists claim that in spite of the Vatican’s prohibition on artificial birth control, an document written by a former Pope suggests that nuns could be allowed to take the Pill.

Dr Kara Britt from Monash University, Melbourne and Prof Roger Short from the University of Melbourne, write in a comment piece published on Thursday: “The Catholic church condemns all forms of contraception except abstinence, as outlined by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968.

“Although Humanae Vitae never mentions nuns, they should be free the use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity [never giving birth] since the document states that ‘the Church in no way regards as unlawful therapeutic means considered necessary to cure organic diseases, even though they also have a contraceptive effect’.

“If the Catholic church could make the contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the ovary and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves.”

The opinion piece states that as long ago as 1713, an Italian physician noted that “nuns had an extremely high incidence of that ‘accursed pest’, breast cancer”.

It goes on: “Today, the world’s 94,790 nuns still pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity.”



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