Iodine Deficiency and Cancer

Iodine and Cancer

Iodine deficiency can make it difficult for the body to properly detoxify itself, as well as cause thyroid dysfunction.  This can lead to hormonal issues, and it can also promote the growth of cancerous cells. Most people are deficient in this essential nutrient due to a lack of eating iodine-rich foods and because exposure to common halogens such as fluoride, chlorine, and bromide all have the ability to displace iodine, therefore interfering with its absorption.  Chlorine compounds and fluoride are commonly added to municipal water supplies, and bromides have replaced iodides as an additive for commercial flour production since the 1980s.

The recommended daily allowance for iodine is set at 150 micrograms, yet the thyroid gland alone requires approximately 6 milligrams of iodine per day in order to operate sufficiently, the breasts require another 5 milligrams, and iodine is also used by all of the other organs of the body as well.  Studies have shown that populations with higher intakes of iodine also have lower rates of breast cancers.  For example, Japan has the highest dietary intake of iodine (with an average of 13 mg per day) and it also has the lowest rates of breast cancers, buy this changes quickly if the woman leaves her homeland and adopts the dietary habits of her new country.

The connection between iodine deficiency, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer continues to grow.

David Brownstein, MD

David Brownstein, MD

Dr David Brownstein was a conventionally trained doctor who realized that the medicines that he was prescribing for his patients were only masking their  symptoms and not actually solving their health issues.  He began studying holistic medicine when his father became ill and has since become the go-to expert on using iodine and other holistic methods for the treatment of serious thyroid issues.  He is also the author of several books on holistic health.

David says, “If we supply the body with the right nutrients it should do fine for a lifetime. So, I consider one of the basics of these to be iodine. Every cell in the body needs and requires iodine to function optimally. We can’t function optimally in an iodine deficient environment. I’ve tested, along with my partners, over 6,000 patients. Over 96 percent were low in iodine, the vast majority were significantly low in iodine. When I talk to clinicians around the country who are looking at this, they find the same numbers that I’m finding.”

Iodine serves many functions in the body: The immune system can’t function without it and you can’t fight infections without it. But its main job is to maintain the normal architecture of the endocrine glands, these include: the thyroid, breasts, ovaries, uterus, and the prostate, which is where many new cancer cases are occurring.

When one has an iodine deficiency, one of the first problems to occur is the formation of cysts within the breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate, and the thyroid. If the deficiency goes on longer these cysts will become nodular and hard. If it continues, the tissues may become hyperplastic, which is a precursor to cancer. Over 80 percent of women are currently suffering from fibrocystic breast disease and David believes this can all be remedied with iodine supplementation.   David says that iodine has apoptotic properties, meaning that it has the ability to stop cancerous cells from dividing, basically stopping this cycle of growth, and in some cases iodine is able to completely reverse their disease.   In his book, Iodine : Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, Dr David Brownstein reports on three cases of spontaneous regression of breast cancer after starting iodine supplementation therapy.

  • Case study #1, Joan was a 63-years-old English teacher and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989.  She declined conventional treatment and began taking 50 mg of Lugol’s Iodine Solution per day. Six weeks later, a PET scan revealed that “all of the existing tumors were disintegrating.”
  • Case study #2, Delores was 73 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She declined to have conventional treatments of radiation and chemotherapy, and instead took 50 mg of Lugol’s Solution daily. A follow-up ultrasound of the breast 18 months later showed that the malignancies continued to diminish in size. Two years later, a follow up mammogram and ultrasound failed to show any abnormalities and were read as  normal by the radiologist.
  • Case study # 3, Joyce was 52 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and started taking 50 mg of Lugol’s Iodine Solution per day. Three years after starting iodine therapy, her follow up mammograms and ultrasound exams continued to show decreasing of the tumor size, with no progression of disease.



A lecture by Dr David Brownstein


thyroid dysfunction

Thyroid Disease

Signs of having an under-active (hypo-active) thyroid-  symptoms include fatigue and/or sluggishness, sensitivity to the cold, heavier menstrual periods, joint and/or muscle pain, pale dry skin, thin and brittle hair and/or fingernails, muscle weakness, hair loss, constipation and leg cramps.

A simple test to see if your thyroid is under-active (hypo-active):

  • Take your temperature immediately upon waking up for 7 days in a row using the armpit method. Then find your average waking temperature for the week. Do this by adding all of the numbers together and dividing by 7.   The normal temp for the underarm is 97.4.  If your average waking temperature is below this number this is a good indication that you may have a sluggish thyroid.

Signs of an overactive (hyperactive) thyroid: A hyperactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, is a condition that results from an overabundance of the thyroid hormone in the body. According to the American Thyroid Association, a hyperactive thyroid causes a speeding up of every function in the body and this can result in hand tremors, irritability, nervousness, increased perspiration, a racing heart, insomnia, diarrhea, weight loss, muscular weakness, and thinning of the skin and hair. Treatment of a hyperactive thyroid depends on our age, the severity and type of disease present, and other medical conditions. Some natural remedies for hyperactive thyroid

Diagnosing thyroid dysfunction

The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine from the foods that you eat and convert it into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine. These cells combine iodine with the amino acid tyrosine to make the T3 and T4 hormones which are then released into the blood stream and transported throughout the body where they control metabolism, which is the conversion of oxygen and calories into energy.

Checking the thyroid– If you go to your doctor complaining of thyroid symptoms, your doctor may order a hormone test that may come back looking normal even though you have an underlying thyroid condition.  This is how this may happen….

When a patient complains about issues that are related to hormones, the first (and sometimes only test) that your doctor may order is a TSH (or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test). Most laboratories consider a normal range for TSH to be anywhere from  0.3-4.2, while most holistic health practitioners, functional MD’s, and endocrinologists would prefer that the TSH does not exceed 2.  Because of this discrepancy in numbers, your general practitioner may tell you that your tests came back within the “normal range,” even when there are problems.  Additionally, the TSH test cannot accurately measure if your cells and tissues are properly receiving and utilizing the circulating thyroid hormones.  

Instead of the TSH test, you can request to have a comprehensive thyroid assessment panel that will look at the various hormone levels in your body.  This includes TSH, FT3, FT4, reverse T3, anti thyroglobulin and anti-TPO.  The comprehensive thyroid panel will check to see how well the thyroid produces T4, as well as how much of the active form of T3 is created, and how well the body is able to convert and use the T3, and whether or not there are significant anti-thyroid antibodies present.   

How to read the results of a Comprehensive Thyroid Panel

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH will fluctuate throughout the day based upon the needs of the body.  FT3 and FT4 are both produced by the thyroid gland. If the TSH is low and FT3 and FT4 are both low, then this is an indication of thyroid dysfunction.

Optimal FT3 levels should be testing within the last quarter of the top of the range.   If FT3 is mid-range or lower, and you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, then you may be suffering from hypothyroidism.

Optimal FT4 is usually between the middle to the top of the range. If you have low FT4 levels, along with a mid-range or slightly higher FT3, and are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism this usually means that the T4 is having a hard time converting to T3, which is also an indicator that you may have hypothyroidism.

Ask your practitioner if they are familiar with the full panel assessment, or find yourself a functional medicine practitioner who can help to get you back on the right track.


Dr Mark Hyman on reversing thyroid dysfunction


Ways to protect your thyroid

  • Request to have a thyroid protector whenever you have an x-ray. Radiation destroys the thyroid, but often the thyroid protectors have been removed because they are cumbersome to the technicians.
  • Don’t have unnecessary x-rays.  This includes dental as your dentist may not be doing what is best for you but for their own bottom line.  Having yearly dental x-rays may not be in the best interest of the patient.
  • Get a thermogram instead of a mammogram so you aren’t exposing your breasts to harmful radiation.
  • Include iodine-rich foods such as sea kelp, wakame, sea salt, yogurt from grass-fed animals, eggs, cranberries and strawberries.
  • Remove soy and other polyunsaturated oils from your diet and substitute with Organic Virgin Coconut Oil  instead.
  • Those with a low functioning thyroid may develop issues if they are eating large amounts of raw goitrogenic foods. Goitrogens are naturally-occurring chemicals that are found in certain raw foods such as: broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, spinach, arugula, rutabagas, soy, turnips, and mustard greens, but vegetable rotation and lightly steaming these will eliminate this issue. Read more below.
  • Eat lightly steamed asparagus often and add fresh asparagus spears to your daily juicing routine.
  • Remove gluten and refined flours from the diet to avoid exposure to bromides.
  • Remove processed sugars from your diet as it also interferes with thyroid function
  • Eat organically whenever possible to avoid pesticide and herbicides that are hormone disruptive.
  • Detox your body in order to remove accumulated toxins
  • Filter your drinking water- fluoride and chlorine can displace iodine in the thyroid gland. Your body needs a minimum of 50 ounces of water per 100 pounds of body weight per day in order to flush toxins out of the body and to stay well hydrated. Consider purchasing a water filtration system that will remove fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals and metals that are found in municipal water supplies. A simple carbon filtration system will only remove chlorine so don’t assume that any filter will do. You can find products online that will remove the harmful elements and leave the beneficial minerals intact, such as a Big Berkey Water Filter System.
  • Learn ways to handle stress appropriately.
  • Get regular exercise

Supplements for those with hypothyroidism:

  • Consider taking a quality iodine supplement such as J.CROW’S® Lugol’s Iodine Solution.
  • It is important to start with a lower dose and then build yourself up to an optimal dosage.  It is normal to experience detox symptoms during this time. You can find more information on supplementation and detoxing with this link. 
  • Trans-dermal application is another effective method to get iodine into your system. This can be done by applying the iodine tincture directly onto the breasts, forearms, or other areas which allows it to be absorbed through the skin.  Watch out for staining when using this method.  Start your supplementation with iodine slowly and build your way up to an optimum dosage according to the chart and guide to supplementation that is linked below.
  • Supplementing with Sea Kelp is another way to obtain iodine if you would rather take it from a food source.
  • Getting adequate amounts of Vitamin C, A, B complex, D3, zinc, magnesium and selenium are all important for those doing an iodine protocol.  These can be difficult to obtain from the diet alone, so supplementation to cover any nutritional shortfalls may be needed.
  • Ashwagandha has the ability to improve thyroid and hormone function and reduces inflammation of the thyroid gland.
  • Black Cumin Seeds (Nigella Sativa) are also shown to help with hypothyroidism.  Read more about the benefit of black seeds.
  • Myrtle Essential Oil and Spearmint Essential Oil can both be combined with a carrier oil and used topically over the thyroid gland.
  • Read a guide to iodine supplementation


Iodine dosage chart

Reference for supplementing with a 5% Lugol’s solution.  Drops are added to a glass of filtered water

Goitrogens and hypothyroidism

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, heavy menstrual period, fatigue, depression, cold intolerance, arthritis, muscle aches, dry skin and hair, thinning hair, brittle nails, puffy face, slow heart rate and constipation.

Goitrogens are naturally-occurring chemicals that are found in certain raw foods such as: soy, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, mustard greens. Goitrogens can interfere with thyroid function in two ways:  Some compounds induce antibodies that can cross-react with the thyroid gland; or they can interfere with thyroid peroxidase (TPO) which is the enzyme responsible for adding iodine during production of thyroid hormones. Either way, the thyroid isn’t able to produce the hormones that it needs to regulate metabolism properly.

When people with a healthy thyroid function eat goitrogenic foods, the thyroid easily compensates and makes more of the hormones that are needed.  But when a person has thyroid dysfunction, the thyroid gland may actually grow more cells as it tries to keep up with hormone production and this may eventually form into a goiter (which is a swelling or enlargement of the thyroid gland).

Note: Rotating your veggies and lightly steaming goitrogenic foods will eliminate the problem, so you can continue to add them into your diet.
Foods that you can eat raw without issues include: carrots, beetroots, beetroot greens, chard, celery, romaine lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, bell peppers, ginger root, blueberries, cherries, apples and citrus fruits.

Additional Resources

Iodine therapy may put breast cancer into remission

Read a guide to supplementation.

Iodine helps prevent breast cancer

What does iodine deficiency have to do with cancer?

A study on thyroid, iodine and breast cancer from the National Institute of Health


  J.CROW’S® Lugol’s Iodine Solution(2 oz.) Twin Pack

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