Iodine Deficiency and Increased Cancer Risk

Iodine deficiency is associated with an increased risk of some cancers including breast cancer.

Iodine’s presumed role as a carcinopreventive or anti-carcinogenic agent has just started to be widely appreciated. The ongoing epidemiological evidence (a study that deals with the incidence, distribution, and control of disease in a population) and molecular effects of iodine points to its effective role in the prevention of cancers through its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and proapoptotic effects.

Iodine is a vital mineral for thyroid functioning and overall human physiology. This trace element plays an important role in producing thyroid hormones that are quite significant for proper bone and brain development. Deficiency of this essential nutrient is linked with an elevated risk of some malignancies which possess thyroid hormone receptors, such as thyroid, breast, and stomach.

According to David Brownstein, MD, Iodine researcher and an expert in Iodine deficiency and supplementation says that Iodine is an essential macronutrient and needed to achieve optimal health. According to him, iodine deficiency can result in grave thyroid problems including thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism, and that iodine can help: fatigue, Graves’ disease, breast cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, detoxification, and Hashimoto’s disease. So, it is very important to take an iodine-rich diet and enhance your thyroid functioning and the immune system.

Iodine kills cancer cells

In laboratory tests, iodine has been reported to destroy cancer cells. It serves an important component in enhancing the immune system in its search for pre-cancer cells. Several scientific studies claim that iodine deficiency causes pre-cancerous fibrocystic disease, which can trigger breast cancer.

Iodine supplementation ensures optimum breast health; colorectal and prostate cancer patients have been found to have benefited from the supplementation of iodine. Radioactive iodine is used to identify thyroid cancer. Iodine has a beneficial effect on mammary dysplasia and fibrocystic breast disease 


Iodine -131 and cancer

Iodine -131 is a type of radioactive iodine that has been reported to be the most effective treatment to kill cancer cells. Radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) or radioiodine is internal radiotherapy for thyroid cancer or a thyroid that produces too much of thyroxine hormone (hyperactive thyroid or thyrotoxicosis). It is also beneficial in diagnosing and treating some malignancies and other conditions.

Radioactive iodine is usually taken in a pill form. However, it is absorbed into the body in liquid (drink) form as well.  It is then picked up by the thyroid malignant cells, even if these cells have spread to other parts of the body.

This therapy is used to ablate cancerous thyroid fragments that have missed removal by surgery or to treat some types of thyroid cancer that have spread to lymph nodes in the neck and other parts of the body. Iodine-131 emits beta radiation (beta rays) that kills any malignant cells that may be present or minimizes the functional activity overactive thyroid. The radiation helps to get rid of any excess thyroid tissue after thyroidectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland). It also destroys metastasized cancer cells (spread to other sites in the body) from the thyroid gland to other parts of the body. If the thyroid is overactive, the beta rays present in the pill or the drink reduces the activity of the thyroid to achieve a normal state.

This is known as targeted radiotherapy because it attacks only the cancer cells and has a negligible impact on healthy cells in the body.

So what can you do to prevent iodine deficiency?

Supplements to improve iodine levels  

  • Seaweed (such as nori, kelp, kombu, and wakame), is the richest source of iodine. It is taken as a dietary supplement and is beneficial in regulating metabolism and plays an important part in body development. Iodine is vital for the operation of the thyroid gland. Levels of iodine in different seaweeds vary greatly.
  • Lugol’s solution is a form of medication that is taken orally. The product decreases thyroid vascularity—hence is helpful in reducing blood loss during thyroid surgery. It reduces the size of the thyroid gland and the amount of thyroid hormones the body makes. As a medication, it can also be used to protect the thyroid gland after radioactive iodine treatment or in a radiation exposure emergency.
  • Nascent Iodine, or atomic iodine or Atomidine, is a liquid orally administered supplemental form of iodine. This dietary supplement helps boost sluggish energy levels and metabolism and improves mental focus and clarity. It also improves other endocrine system functions which are helpful in body temperature, mood, helps sleep, and emotions.
Examples of best-selling iodine supplements


Selenium as a buddy supplement

Selenium is often termed as a buddy supplement and possesses a synergistic relationship with iodine to ensure thyroid health. Sufficient intake of iodine along with selenium (both are macronutrients) is important for normal thyroid hormone metabolism. Supplementing iodine with selenium is beneficial in reversing thyroid disorders, including autoimmune thyroid.

Examples of best-selling selenium  supplements


Cancer, thyroid performance, and iodine deficiency are definitely associated. There is significant evidence to support iodine deficiency as a risk factor for cancer development and progression. The strongest evidence is for stomach cancer, with data emerging that indicates it could be a risk factor in breast, prostate, and possibly other cancer types.

Patients wanting to use high dose iodine as a therapy, it is best to seek practitioner guidance so you can monitor for any unwanted effects.  Several studies have reported that adequate intake of iodine attacks cancer cells.