The Effect of Iodine on Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breast changes are no joke. They can be extremely painful as tissues swell throughout the course of the menstrual cycle. It is not something anyone should want to experience.
This swelling relates to fluid buildup and damage from iodine. But, it may surprise you to hear that iodine has played a role in “helping” those with fibrocystic breast disease in the past.
Past research suggested that high-dose iodine may reduce the symptoms related to fibrocystic breast disease in about 50-60% of women of a certain age.
Let’s make a few things clear, though. This didn’t help everyone at all times, but it did lessen the effects of some of the symptoms, in some people, for a brief period of time.
But, this isn’t something that we would want to pursue today.
When it comes to iodine for breast health, there’s a confusing mix at play. It’s that nutrients, like iodine, can sometimes be used as nutrients – and, sometimes used as drugs.
You may know that iodine can be used on cuts and scrapes. But, if you used it, and it worked, would that mean you are deficient in iodine? No, because the two are unrelated.
The same was true for the study I mentioned above. While the iodine helped the symptoms, it wasn’t because these patients were deficient in iodine. It helped because it blocked their iodine.
The Japanese Paradox
People have often thought about “the Japanese paradox” – where the Japanese population has lower rates of breast cancer, and yet they have a higher intake of iodine.
The fact is that both of those things are true, but is it true that the iodine caused them to have less breast cancer? That is a bit more complicated.
We have learned that, in Japanese women, the overall diet (one that is high in dietary soy) is a much more influential factor – because, if you isolate simply for iodine levels, the highest levels still have more instances of breast cancer, on average, the same as we might find at home.
Since iodine seems to be present in high amounts of cancerous tissue and cancerous tissues aggressively absorb iodine, studies are underway to see if radioactive iodine could be used to target certain cancers. I have written about this subject before if you want to hear my take on the matter.
This risk here may not be limited to breast cancer. Other studies have shown that on a population-wide level, the total cancer death risk is higher in those with the highest iodine intake.