Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Nuns Would Benefit from the Pill

By Magdeline Lum

Interesting experiments and quirky research findings.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A paper published in The Lancet declares that if “the Catholic church could make the oral contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the breast, ovary, and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves”.

A comment piece titled “The Plight of Nuns: Hazards of Nulliparity” cites research that directly links the number of menstrual cycles a woman goes through to her risk of cancer. The younger the arrival of periods or a late onset of menopause are factors linked to a higher cancer risk. Nuns, being childless, generally have no breaks from their periods. Not having children is another risk factor for developing cancer because pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce the number of ovulatory cycles a woman has. The more ovulatory cycles, the higher the risk of cancer.

In the first half of the 20th century scientists who studied 31,568 nuns in the United States found that the death rates from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer among nuns were higher than any other women their age. In 1970, a formal recognition was made that it was the lack of childbearing among nuns that raised their breast cancer risk.

Dr Kara Britt and Professor Roger Short, authors of the commentary, state that the oral contraceptive has been shown to reduce the incidence of uterine and ovarian cancer rates. There...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.