Nuns should take contraceptive pill as aid to reducing early mortality

The Catholic Church should encourage nuns to use the contraceptive pill as a way to reduce the high death rates from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, say two Australian scientists.

They also argue, that according to the Church’s moral guidelines, religious women are free to take the pill for this purpose.

As reported by the Guardian, the scientists say that it is an established scientific fact that by not having children there is an increased risk in getting cancer because pregnancy, and breastfeeding a baby, reduces the number of ovulatory cycles a woman has in her lifetime.

More ovulatory cycles increases cancer risk.

While increasing the risk of blood clots, the oral contraceptive pill has been shown to reduce the

  • overall mortality rates of women who have ever taken it by 12% compared with non-users, and
  • risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers by 50%-60% in pill users compared with never-users. (Protection that persists for 20 years.)

Writing in the Lancet, Dr Kara Britt from Monash University, Melbourne, and Professor Roger Short from the University of Melbourne say religious women should have the option to take the pill.

“The Catholic church condemns all forms of contraception, as outlined by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968. Although Humanae Vitae never mentions religious women, they should be free to use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity 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,” they write.

Women who begin their periods at an early age and hit the menopause late are also at a higher risk of mortality from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.


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