The Iodine Connection to Breast Cancer

I sat at my desk silently awaiting the pathology report.  It was to be coming any second now.  Across from me sat my patient, Jennifer C., nervous and anxious, having had a breast biopsy on the previous day.  She asked that I be there when she received the news.  I totally understood, having been in a similar position several years earlier when I received the report of a lymphoma growing in my blood.  Jennifer and I had been through a great deal together: the birth of her two daughters, gynecological surgery and some adjustments during menopause.

     The fax machine whirred – the news was not good.

     Sound familiar?  I hope not, but the sad fact remains that this scenario is happening to too many of us, our friends, our family and the people around us every day.

     When I graduated from medical school, the risk of breast cancer was only 1 in 20.  By the time I began my practice, it was 1 in 15.  Today, it is 1 in 6 and growing.  Unfortunately for my daughter and granddaughter, the risk will be a staggering 1 in 3!

     Another alarming fact is that during the last 45 years I have practiced medicine, our genetics have not changed.  It is the environment around us which has.  Although cancer can be linked to many causes, the smoking gun points to a familial tendency plus a trigger, generally a toxin or nutritional deficiency.

     While we haven't the space in this short article to review all of cancer's known risk factors, let's look at just one simple contributor.  And, the good news is this risk is easy to detect and simple to correct.

     According to Dr. David Brownstein, author of Iodine: Why You Need It; Why You Can't Live Without It, 90% of Americans lack sufficient iodine for optimal health, and this insufficiency contributes to an increased risk for both fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer. (1)

     In his science evidence-based analysis of Japanese iodine intake, Thyroid res 2011, Dr. David Zava reports that women in Japan, who consume high amounts of dietary iodine, have much lower rates of breast cancer than women in America.  However, when Japanese women immigrate from Japan to the United States and begin eating a Western diet with its fractional amount of iodine, their incidence of breast cancer increases dramatically. (2)

     Japan = 1,000 to 3,000 ng; USA = 209ug daily.

     Bernard Eskin, M.D. of Drexel University in Philadelphia has studied the effects of iodine on breast cancer for more than 40 years.  His work gives us some pivotal basic truths about iodine and breast health:

1.     Iodine depletion causes changes in breast tissue.

2.     When sufficient iodine is added to the diet, breast tissue returns to normal.

3.     Normal iodine intake results in normal estrogen function in breast tissue.

4.     Iodine supplementation blocks the development of breast cancer in animals given cancer causing substances.

     The scientific reason iodine protects breast tissue is a bit academic.  The way it works is: Iodine concentrates in the alveoli and ductal cells of the breast, where in sufficient amounts, it squelches powerful cancer causing 'quinone estrogens' (bad estrogens) and stabilizes breast tissue from cancer proliferation.  All to say, iodine, in the right amounts is good for the breast and helps knock out cancer. (3)

     Back to Jennifer –

     At The Riordan Clinic, the foremost integrative cancer treatment facility in the U.S., I was taught a valuable metaphor, 'if you don't get out of the shower, you can't get dry'.  In Jennifer’s case, if she continued to have toxins in her body and did not remove them or had nutrient deficiencies and did not correct them, she would be at risk for initiating another cancer or a cancer recurrence.

     Jennifer's lab test revealed an increased level of cancer causing 'quinones' and toxic levels of PCB's.  She also had a vitamin D deficiency (known to increase cancer risks) and – guess what else?  A severe insufficiency of iodine.

     Fortunately, by knowing Jennifer's nutrient deficiencies and toxicity levels, we were able to correct them, “taking Jennifer out of the shower”.  And, I am happy to report that 5 years later she is cancer free.


  Jennifer C. is a breast cancer survivor thanks to a combination of early detection, traditional medicine and an integrative approach.

     Let's all learn more about how to end this ruthless disease.


To Your Good Health,

Dr. Dan Watts
The Renewal Point


Q & A

How much iodine do I need? This depends on the outcomes of testing. 

How often do I need iodine? Daily. 

How can I get tested to see if I have a deficiency? Call a doctor who is familiar with Iodine testing – the simple test is Absorption. 

What foods can I eat to boost my iodine? Sea vegetables, scallops, cod
yogurt, shrimp, sardines, salmon, cow's milk, eggs, and tuna are all great food sources. 

What is better… supplements or food? Both – Food is best, but most people can't achieve optimal levels on an American diet so supplementation can play an important role.


1.  Brownstein, D.; Iodine: Why You Need It; Why You Can't Live Without It.

2.  Zava, D.; Thyroid res 2011.

3.  Venturi S.; Is There a Role for Iodine in Breast Disease, The Breast, 2001.


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