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Hormonal contraceptives for nuns?

Two cancer researchers from Australia have urged the Catholic church to make oral contraceptive pills freely available to nuns to help to protect them against reproductive cancers. Doctors first noticed a link between convent life and breast cancer in 1713, and by 1950 it was clear that nuns and other celibate women also had a high risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.

Catholic nuns have no children and no need to breastfeed. They have more menstrual cycles between menarche and menopause than women who have children, write the researchers. We now know that menstrual cycles contribute to risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. We also know that women who use oral contraceptives have significantly fewer uterine and ovarian cancers than non-users, a protection that lasts for around two decades. The world's 94790 nuns should be encouraged to take advantage of this protection, say the experts. Oral contraceptive pills do not help to prevent breast cancer, but are associated with significant reductions in overall mortality in epidemiological studies. Pills can save lives. Although the Catholic church explicitly bans all forms of contraception except abstinence, it does allow followers to take therapeutic agents to 'cure organic diseases, even though they also have a contraceptive effect'. Hormonal contraceptives taken by celibate nuns would surely fall into this category, say the researchers. Nuns pay an unnecessarily high price for their childlessness, a fact that deserves wider recognition.

Britt K, Short R. Lancet 2011. doi: 10.1016/S0140- 6736(11)61746-7.
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Title Annotation:Abstracts
Publication:CME: Your SA Journal of CPD
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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