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It may seem like the most unlikely of events – but according to a new study in The Lancet – nuns should be offered the contraceptive pill in order to cut their risk of getting cancer. Common pills routinely prescribed to women around the world such as Cerazette and Microgynon can be used to stop or control the frequency of periods and, as a result, women could fight conditions such as ovarian, breast and uterine cancers using the contraceptive pill.
Of course, this presents a potential conflict of interest for the Catholic Church, which strictly denounces and forbids the use of contraception despite the health implications. Is this an appropriate preventative measure for women who have taken the vow of chastity? Does it contradict the fundamentals of the religion they have committed their life to?
Numerous studies have shown that women who become pregnant find themselves less at risk of contracting serious forms of female cancer. It is estimated that the risk of developing cancer decreases by as much as 60% when a woman becomes pregnant. It is thought that the number of menstrual cycles that a woman has during her lifetime has a direct relationship with the likelihood of common cancers.
Writing in medical journal The Lancet, two medical professionals commented on the dangers to nuns who, through a life of chastity, find themselves at increased risk of cancer. The pair present the argument that the pill could be the solution, decreasing the number of menstrual cycles and subsequently the risk of cancer.
The Catholic Church does not allow its followers to use any form of contraception, although this stance has become increasingly tempered over the past fifty years. In 1968, Pope Paul VI stated that the Church permits the use of therapeutic medicine to combat disease, even if the medicine also has a contraceptive effect. This in theory leaves Catholic nuns able to freely use the pill providing that their intention is to avoid cancers.
What is the difference between the many types of contraceptive pill that are currently available? Read our helpful guide to Female Contraception for more information.
Although the majority of women who take the contraceptive pill do so for its contraceptive benefits, an increasing number of patients use the pill for more diverse reasons.
Providing that patients are made aware of possible dangers associated with taking any medication, every woman- nun or not – should have the choice of using the contraceptive pill to fight cancer.