When you think of nuns you might think of your memories of Catholic school, or of Sally Field as The Flying Nun, (can you believe that was a show?) or Sr. Janet Mead’s ’70s funk version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” You probably don’t think of contraception.
But some nuns might be, if not for the same reasons as most women do.
CNN’s The Chart reports on an article from The Lancet arguing that nuns “should be free to use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity” – that is, heightened cancer risk among women who do not bear children.” Catholic bioethicists, CNN syas, find no conflict in nuns— or other Catholics— taking the pill for “treating heavy menstrual bleeding or endometriosis.”
Women who give birth at a younger age, have more children and who breast feed have lower risks of uterine, breast and endometrial cancer than women who never get pregnant. The Lancet cites a 1969 study on nuns over a 54-year period showed that they were more likely to die of these cancers … however, the risk for uterine cancer among nuns wasn’t higher than for other women until they were in their ’70s; ’80s for ovarian cancer.
The Lancet cites two studies showing that the pill can “reduces the risk uterine and ovarian cancer and does not up the risk of breast cancer,” but other doctors quoted in stop short of recommending nuns go on the pill, citing the need for further research.