The term nulliparous refers to a woman who has never given birth – she has no children. In our fast-moving world, many women choose not to have children until much later in life and some choose to never start a family. It’s a woman’s right to skip motherhood for other adventures in life, right? According to a study published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, nulliparous women are at increased risk of reproductive cancer, but why?

Nuns Open the Eyes of Science
Interestingly, the increased risk of reproductive cancers was first noted in 1900s. A 54-year study on nuns showed increased risk of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers. Later, in 1970, researchers linked the risk of cancer with the fact that nuns lead a life of chastity, which meant never having children. Just like nuns, some women choose to skip having children for personal, professional or medical reasons. Those women are in the same boat as the nuns. 

No Children – Take Birth Control
There is much debate over the use of contraception by followers of the Catholic Church. The church does not believe in contraception, but there is mention of taking medications that have a contraceptive effect if the medications are necessary to promote improved health. This clause could be the saving grace for Catholic nuns as birth control pills may reduce the risk of reproductive cancers. Some scientists and doctors hypothesize that the cancer risk is associated with number of ovulatory cycles. Nulliparous women have more ovulatory cycles than women who experience pregnancy. The birth control pill would stop ovulation and thus mimic the effects of pregnancy on the ovulatory cycle.

Having Children Will Stop My Risk of Cancer?
Just because women who never have children are more likely to suffer reproductive cancers does not mean women who have children are suddenly protected from said cancers. Mothers suffer from breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer every day. Nulliparity is a risk factor. There are other risk factors associated with increased risk of reproductive cancers, including family history, so having children will not prevent you from having cancer.