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Iodine deficiency and links to breast cancer

It seems that our need for iodine and especially its connection to combating breast cancer has been kept a big secret.

My information comes from two books and two website articles:

  • Iodine for Health by Donald W. Miller, Jr. MD (2006) at
  • Breast Cancer and Iodine by Dr David M. Derry, MD, PhD (2001) Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing.
  • Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It by David Brownstein, MD (2nd edition 2006) Westbloomfield, Michigan: Medical Alternatives Press.
  • Iodine: The Universal Nutrient by Dr Guy E Abraham (2005) at the following web address:

Please look at these websites and get hold of these books for a detailed explanation of the benefits of supplementing iodine.

From 11th Edition of Encyclopedia Britannica 1910-1911 (Brownstein 2006:8):

"In medicine, iodine is frequently applied externally ... and in the treatment of many conditions usually classified as surgical. The usual doses of these iodine salts are from 300mg to 900mg. Their pharmacological action is obscure just as their effects in certain diseased condition are consistently brilliant and unexampled. Our ignorance of their mode of action is cloaked by the term deobstruent, which implies that they possess the power of driving out impurities from the blood and tissues. The following is a list of the principal condition in which iodides are recognised to be of definite value: metallic poisonings, as by lead and mercury, asthma, aneurism, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris, gout, goitre, syphilis, haemophilia, Brights's disease (nephritis) and bronchitis."

It is now suggested that iodine deficiency is one of the main underlying causes of many varied illnesses including thyroid disorders, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, cancer (including cancers of the breast and prostate) and many other health issues including fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts. (Brownstein 2006:54, 25) Animal studies show that iodine prevents breast cancer and cures fibrocystic abnormalities in their breasts. (Miller 2006)

Iodine is the safest of all the essential trace elements being the only one that can be administered safely for long periods in daily amounts as high as 100,000 times the RDA. However, this safety record only applies to inorganic non-radioactive forms of iodine. The reduced form of iodine is iodide with an extra electron. Both forms are needed for optimal function of every organ and cell of the human body.

For over 100 years iodine has been known as the element necessary for thyroid production, but its other functions have largely been ignored. Iodine is found in each of the cells and adequate levels are necessary for proper immune system function. Iodine contains potent antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral and anticancer properties. It detoxifies the body of heavy metals and toxic halides such as bromine, fluoride and chlorine derivatives. It is suggested that iodine is important in the process of apoptosis, (natural cell death) and in destroying cells that represent a threat to the body, like cancer cells and cells infected with viruses. (Miller 2006)

About one third of the world's population live in an area of iodine deficiency as defined by WHO. This measurement is likely to be the amount of iodine needed to prevent goitre (enlargement of the thyroid). For the thyroid to be saturated with iodine leaving surplus for other parts of the body to use, much more than the RDA is needed. A test of 3000 patients in the US found 95% of them to be iodine deficient.

This deficiency is not only due to inadequate iodine intake, but also due to the increasing exposure of toxins, which means that the body's need of iodine is increasing. This is happening while our dietary intake has decreased. Over the last 30 years (1970-2000) iodine levels in the US have decreased by 50%. This is for several reasons.

  • Iodine was added to bread as a dough conditioner. In 1980 bromine replaced iodine in bread making, not only depriving the body of iodine, but the bromine inhibits iodine uptake from other sources.
  • Iodised salt is the main source of iodine in the US. For some years now people have been encouraged to eat less salt and over the last 30 years consumption of iodised salt has decreased by 65%. In addition iodine in salt is only 10% bioavailable - that added to bread was more easily absorbed. (NB Refined salt is a lifeless product that has had all of its minerals removed and has been exposed to toxic chemicals to make it white. Our bodies need unrefined traditionally harvest salt, such as Celtic sea salt or unrefined Himalayan crystal salt.)
  • Perchlorate (manufactured for rocket fuel) contamination of the US water supply is widespread and increasing. It displaces iodine in the body and damages the transport system of iodine into body cells. (NB Research has shown that a defective cellular transport system for iodine has been helped by 300mg/day of vitamin C.)

The thyroid gland primarily uses iodide as does the skin; the breast and prostate glands use iodine; and other tissues including the kidneys, spleen, liver, blood, salivary glands and intestines can use either form.

The first reported connection between hypothyroidism and breast cancer was mentioned in 1896. There is also a direct relationship between breast cancer (as well as goitre) and regions of the world, or within a country, where iodine deficiency is prevalent. Please read the books mentioned for details of how iodine helps.

Iodine Dosage Levels

The RDA of 150mcg/day is inadequate. This will prevent goitres but not breast disease. If iodine consumption is not greater than 2-3mg/day then the thyroid takes it all. US and European dietary intake is about 10% that needed to saturate the thyroid and fulfil the needs of the surveillance system for abnormal cells. (Derry 2001:84)

Mainland Japanese were measured in 1964 to have been consuming 13.8mg/day of iodine which is about 100 times the RDA. Recently it is suggested that their consumption of seaweed has increased giving a much greater iodine intake of up to 45mg/day. Japan has a very low rate of breast cancer, and low cancer rates generally, except for stomach cancer which is likely to be linked to a high consumption of nitrates used as a food preservative. However when Japanese move to the US over successive generations their rates of cancer increase to that of their host country, presumably with altered diet and environment.

Dr Guy Abraham has shown that the required daily intake of iodine necessary for maintaining iodine sufficiency for the whole body is at least 13mg/day. The thyroid needs approximately 6mg/day, the breasts need at least 5mg of iodine, which would only leave 2mg for the rest of the body, which may not be enough in the increasing toxic environment in which we live. Iodine is one of the treatments for exposure to radiation - potassium iodide was given to residents of Poland and Russia after the Chernobyl accident.

"An effective dose often ranges from 12mg/day to 50mg/day." (Brownstein 2006: 159) In addition vitamin C and unrefined (Celtic) sea salt is needed to repair the iodine transport mechanism, together with the support of a complete nutritional programme.

2 drops of Lugol's solution (0.1ml) contains 5mg of iodine and 7.5mg of iodide giving 12.5mg of iodine/iodide.

It is made up of 10% potassium iodide, 5% iodine and 85% distilled water. 8 drops would provide 50mg/day.

Iodoral® is a tablet form of Lugol's solution. 4 tablets provide 50mg iodine/iodide.

Much higher doses of iodine are used by physicians to treat many varied diseases. Dr Abraham suggests that his studies indicate that given a sufficient amount the body will retain much more iodine that originally thought - 1,500mg, with only 3% of that amount held in the thyroid gland. He also suggests that supplementation with vitamin C (perhaps 3gm daily) and magnesium (up to 1200mg daily) and an increased fluid intake supports iodine assimilation and the detoxification process. He also suggests using unprocessed sea salt.

For a fuller reading list please see D. W. Miller at

For suppliers of Lugol's Solution and Iodoral® see Suppliers & Support

NB An alternative to Lugol's Solution offered by some suppliers is called Liquid Iodine. The product description of this states that each drop contains 75mcg potassium iodide and the Liquid Iodine Forte contains 150mcg potassium iodide. As we have seen above potassium iodide is used by the thyroid, the skin and many other organs. However, the breast and prostate glands use iodine not potassium iodide. Lugol's solution contains both iodine and potassium iodide and is therefore preferable especially for those seeking protection from prostate and breast cancer and fibrocystic abnormalities in the breast.

Summary of suggested normal daily dose - equivalent to traditional Japanese daily intake of iodine:

Two drops of Lugol's solution which provides 12.5mg of iodine/iodide. Or one Iodoral tablet providing 12.5mg of iodine/iodide. As with all supplements, it is wise to start with a lower dose and increase.

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