Iodine and Breast Cancer: the Connection

If you’re older than fifty you probably remember the standard salt on the table was Morton’s “iodized” salt. The U.S. was historically iodine deficient prior to the early 1920s, particularly in the goiter belt region of the Great Lakes, Appalachians, and the northwestern area of the country, due to the effects of natural atmospheric processes. Following the successful implementation of salt iodization program in Switzerland, the introduction of iodized table salt in the U.S. during the 1920s significantly improved its iodine nutritional status.

We don’t hear much about iodine anymore and yet it is an essential nutrient and as I’ll explain, essential in the prevention of many cancers.

When we think of iodine we usually focus on its important role in making thyroid hormones, which it does and is essential for that to happen. What many of us don’t realize is the role it plays in many other parts of the body. The levels of iodine have dropped 50% over the last fifty years, could that be why we are seeing such a spike in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers?

Iodine’s Role in the Body

Iodine is found in each of the trillion cells in the body. Iodine is not only responsible for thyroid hormone its responsible for all the other hormones in the body as well.  Iodine levels are important for proper immune function.  It is antiparasitic, antibacterial, antiviral, and has anticancer properties.  Iodine is also very effective for treating fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts.   

Went for my breast Thermography exam yesterday and need to share the positive changes in my body from iodine. One year ago my breasts were hard, lumpy, swollen, and hormonally inflamed. After one year on iodine, all of the inflammation is gone and my breasts are so soft. I know in my heart that if I didnt start the iodine protocol I was heading down a very dark hole. Also, my dead and cold thyroid lit up when last year it didnt even register in the exam. Theresa M. 

Therapeutic Actions of Iodine and Conditions Iodine Can Treat

Therapeutic ActionsConditions Treated with Iodine
AntiparasiticBreast Diseases
AntiviralDupuytren’s Contracture
Elevated pHExcess Mucous Production
Mucolytic AgentFatigue
Fibrocystic Breast
Headaches and Migraine Headaches
Liver Disease
Nephrotic Syndrome
Ovarian Disease
Parotid Duct Stones
Prostate Disorders
Sebaceous Cysts
Thyroid Disorders
Vaginal Infections

Where Do We Get Iodine In Our Diet?

What is the amount of iodine found in iodized salt?  Iodine is added to table salt at 100ppm in the form of potassium iodide, which amounts to 77ug iodine/gram of salt.  It is estimated that less than 50% of the U.S. population uses iodized salt.  Much of the population is told to go on a low salt” diet due to high blood pressure as well. 

Additional sources of iodine can be found in seafood, seaweed products, multivitamins, eggs, meat, and dairy if the feed contains iodine.    During the 1980s much of the iodine was removed from food products.  One of those items was white flour.  Iodine was removed and Bromide replaced it, Bromide is an antagonist to iodine. 

The deficiency of iodine is reaching a critical state. The RDA for iodine is 150ug (micrograms).  There are certain sub-groups of people that are at a higher risk of iodine deficiency. 

  • Diets without fish or sea vegetables
  • Low sodium diets
  • Diets high in the consumption of white flour products
  • Vegan and vegetarian diets

The Iodine Breast Cancer Connection

Researchers have looked at breast cancer and the hypothyroidism connection for over 40 years.  There are researchers that feel that thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism and Hashimotos Disease are associated with the development of breast cancer. 

One study compared women taking thyroid hormone vs women not taking thyroid hormone and found a 50% increase in the thyroid hormone group.  This same study found that breast cancer incidence has linearly increased the longer the time period the women took the thyroid hormone.  The highest risk group was for those who had been on thyroid hormone for over 15 years.  

So what is the link between taking thyroid hormones and breast cancer?  Many researchers feel its an iodine deficiency. When taking a thyroid hormone you increase the metabolic rate of the body and in turn, you increase the need for iodine.  When iodine deficiency is present, which it is in a large group of the population, the longer the thyroid hormone is taken the more deficient you become.  

Iodine is not only needed for thyroid hormone but for every hormone in the body.  Every gland concentrates iodine and utilizes it to manufacture hormones.  Every cell depends on adequate iodine to run the cell machinery optimally.  The thyroid hormone raises the metabolism of every cell in the body, therefore, the need for iodine goes up for every cell in the body.  If iodine is deficient, thyroid hormone therapy will exacerbate the iodine deficiency further. 

But what came first?  Iodine deficiency or thyroid hormone deficiency?  More than likely it was an iodine deficiency that had been going on for years prior to seeing the hypothyroidism present itself. 

Dr. David Brownsteins book Iodine Why You Need It – Why You Cant Live Without It” has testimony after testimony of patients who had been on thyroid hormone therapy and yet still did not feel well.  Many had Hashimotos disease, an auto-immune disorder of the thyroid. 

I  diagnosed my nurse with Hashimotos disease.  Angelas complaints were fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and a general sense of not feeling well.  She was only 23 years old.  Angela was treated with iodine (50mg daily) and a complete supportive nutritional program.  Angela felt about 30% better on the program.  When she walked into my office one day she saw a bottle of ATP co-factors on my desk and asked what is that?”  I told her it was additional therapy for Hashimotos, Graves disease, Fibromyalgia,  and Chronic Fatigue patients.  She said, I have Hashimoto’s, how come Im not on that?”  I had to admit I hadnt added that into her program.  After starting on the ATP co-factor (B-2, B-3) she felt an immediate improvement. Dr. David Brownstein 


Its easy to just think we can go out and start taking some iodine but that is not the case.  Its important that you are working with a health care practitioner that is familiar with how to dose iodine and the other co-factors that are necessary to take. 

Iodine can have a detoxification effect on the body.  Remember, every cell in your body needs iodine but there are other competing chemicals that may have prevented the absorption of iodine.  These are called halogens” and include chlorine, fluoride, and bromine.  They fill up the receptor site for iodine at the cellular level.  If incorrect dosages of iodine are given and/or not enough supporting nutrients are on board, the body will actually get more toxic.  

Necessary cofactors include: 

  1. Vitamin C– 2,000mg-5,000mg daily in divided doses.This nutrient is high in antioxidants and works to buffer the oxidation caused by the detoxing of halides from the cells.  Vitamin C is also needed by the symporters and helps to support them in their healing process which allows iodine to more readily enter the cells. 
  2. Selenium– 200-400mcg daily. Selenium is used by the thyroid in the hormone creation process. There is a selenium-containing enzyme glutathione peroxidase which functions to keep the hydrogen peroxide reduced to H2) after it converts iodide to iodine.  When selenium is deficient this process of defense is impaired. Selenium is also contained in iodothyronine deiodinase. This is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of T4 to T3. 
  3. Magnesium200-400mg daily. This nutrient works to counter the excess calcium in the cells.  When there is excess, the oxidation process can be fueled and be part of the autoimmune thyroid issue. 
  4. Unrefined saltsuch as Celtic, Pink Himalayan, or Sea salt 1/2 tsp. daily.  Supports the adrenals, binds to bromide, and assists in its removal. 
  5. Optional, ATP CoFactors B2/B31 tablet 2x daily. These two nutrients are needed by the cells to produce more H202to assist in the oxidation process of iodine.  It also stimulates the NADPH pathway, where iodide is converted to iodine.  This would be important for those dealing with an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimotos. 

Testing for Iodine

I would recommend that you order a 24-hour loading and bromide level test kit prior to supplementing with iodine.  I recommend this because you may obtain a high saturation level on the iodine loading test and believe your levels are fine when in fact bromide toxicity will block the iodine receptors not allowing the iodine to enter the cell which results in an elimination of iodine when it is needed/deficient thus skewing the test results. 

It is not recommended that you do the spot test as this is only an indicator of how much iodine is in the diet and the amount that has been ingested in the last 24-48 hours.  It offers no real value to determining the body saturation level. 

Suggested Lab

Hakala Labs has a 24-hour loading and the add-on of bromide analysis.  As of this writing, the 24-hour iodine loading test runs $70, and the add-on of bromide is $35.  Here is the link for ordering. 

Going Forward

I want to encourage you again to work with a doctor, functional medicine doctor, naturopathic doctor, or nutritionist if choosing to do an iodine supplementation program.  Iodine supplementing can be very detoxifying and you may experience unpleasant symptoms.  When working with a health care professional they can guide you on proper dosage and how to deal with detoxification symptoms. 

A great book to read is Breast Cancer and Iodine: How to Prevent and How to Survive Breast Cancer byPh.D. Dr. David Derry M.D. 

One of the blessings and a curse of iodine supplementing is that toxins are released into the body. It is a blessing because bromide, fluoride, mercury, and lead are released from the cells so that the healing can begin. But the curse comes from the large amounts of toxins being released which in most cases, cannot be eliminated quickly and effectively. The average person has no idea just how toxic they become. By the time illness sets in, the toxicity is more than likely very high. 

Prior to starting an iodine program a few weeks of concentrated liver, lymphatic support,  kidney, and digestive support with the purpose of increasing bile, cleaning up the diet, and cleansing the body, will offer a better result on your iodine journey. 



About the Author: Chris McKee

Chris McKee Certified Nutritionist and Certified Diet Counselo

Chris McKee is a Certified Nutritionist and Certified Diet Counselor with over 30 years of experience in whole-food cooking, healthy lifestyle coaching, individual nutritional counseling and speaking to 1,000’s of people about the role of good nutrition in preventing disease.

Chris is also a Certified Nutragenomix practitioner and this allows her to look deep into your genetic profile and personalize your nutrition program based on your unique genetic fingerprint.

She runs on-line courses including her 10 Day Clean Eating Challenge, 21 Days Prepping for the Keto Diet as well as her Hope 4 Cancer Recovery program.

Chris and her husband Ed love to travel, hence the name “The Nomadic Nutritionist”.  She is a grandmother of four and a great-grandma of two!  She loves to cook, explore new food finds, hike and fish.

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