Catholic nuns are in the high risk category of different types cancer because of their celibate life. Reuters

Catholic nuns are at a greater risk of dying from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer compared with the general population, a new study has warned.

According to the Lancet report, nuns should be allowed to take contraceptive pills to reduce the risk of cancer.

Cancer researchers at the Lancet are of the opinion that Roman Catholic nuns are paying a heavy price for their chastity and their celibate life put them in the high risk group for different types of cancer.

Two Australian researchers, Dr Kara Britt from Monash University, Melbourne, and Prof Roger Short from the University of Melbourne, have written the paper linking cancer risk to the celibate life of the nuns in the Journal.

According to the researchers, women who never breastfeed or give birth will have increased menstrual cycles which would lead them to be in a high risk category of cancer. However, they claim that the use of contraceptive pills has shown significant reduction in the chances of getting ovarian, uterine and breast cancers.

"Ovarian and endometrial cancers falls by 50-60 percent in pill-users compared with never-users, protection that persists for 20 years, showing a clear long-term benefit," said Dr Kara Britt and Prof Roger Short, in their paper titled "The Plight of Nuns: Hazards of Nulliparity".

In a 1968 document "Humanae Vitae" outlined by Pope Paul VI, the Catholic Church condemned all forms of contraception except abstinence. Although Humanae Vitae never mentions nuns, 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", said the Lancet study.

"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 ovary and uterus, and give nuns' plight the recognition it deserves," said the paper.