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Connecting Fibrocystic Breast Disease, Breast Cancer, Thyroid Function, and Iodine
by Elora Gabriel


The following is a summary of articles by Dr. David Derry and Dr. Jonathan Wright. In presenting this material, we are not making any claims for the effectiveness of iodine in either treating or preventing fibrocystic breast disease or cancer. This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

Let's start our discussion of breast health by discussing a very common problem-fibrocystic breast disease. We will summarize some simple treatments used by holistic doctors, and then go on to make several interesting and vital connections which can help us to keep our breasts healthy.

According to Dr. David Derry, a highly respected holistic doctor from Canada, 90% of North American women have fibrocystic breast disease, although about 40% of these women experience no symptoms. Their breasts may be normal to examination, and the condition may be only microscopically detectable with a biopsy.

CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF FIBROCYSTIC BREAST DISEASE
What is fibrocystic breast disease? It consists of lumps in a woman's breast tissue, which may be small or large, and may or may not be painful. These lumps may vary in size or tenderness from month to month, or become worse prior to the menstrual cycle. Medical doctors generally believe that fibrocystic disease results from the excess number of cells that grow in the breast during the menstrual cycle from the hormonal stimulation.

Dr. Derry writes: "Since the number of cells increases in the breast during the cycle, some of the cells have to be removed to restore the normal state each month. Iodine is the trigger mechanism that causes excess cells to disappear to complete this normal process of cell death. Without enough iodine, the extra cells that develop during the menstrual cycle due to the hormonal stimulation do not resolve back to the normal breast architecture. These leftover cells build up over repeated cycles and cause the lumps, soreness, and larger lesions of fibrocystic disease.... Enough iodine enables the excess cells to be cleared out, and the breast can return to its normal resting state as the fibrocystic disease slowly disappears from the breast."

DR. WRIGHT'S TREATMENT FOR FIBROCYSTIC BREAST DISEASE
Support for Dr. Derry's theory is found in Dr. Jonathan Wright's astonishingly successful treatment for breast fibrocysts. Dr. Wright insists, first of all, that patients with this condition scrupulously abstain from all caffeine, not just from coffee and tea, but from soft drinks and pain killers containing caffeine. Beyond that, Dr. Wright's treatment revolves around the use of iodine. For very severe cases, he recommends iodine swabbed directly into the vagina, followed immediately by an intravenous injection of iodine. (Vaginal application puts the iodine as close to the ovaries as possible, and has given the best results for women with very painful fibrocysts.) This treatment gives almost miraculous results, with women reporting reduction in breast pain and swelling within minutes, and often a near-complete resolution over a period of weeks.

For less severe cases, both the iodine and magnesium can be taken internally. Dr. Wright uses 7 drops daily of Lugol's Iodine, which is a prescription item: however a tablet such as Prolamine Iodine should be sufficient. He also recommends the following on a daily basis: 200 mg. of magnesium; 400-800 IU's of Vitamin E; 200 mcg. of selenium, and 2-4 capsules of evening primrose or black current oil. Lastly, he recommends taking Vitamin B-6, 100 mg. daily and 300 mg. daily prior to the menstrual cycle.

After symptoms resolve, Dr. Wright allows his patients to taper down on the above supplement program, but suggest that they continue with iodine at a lower dose indefinitely. He notes that, contrary to popular opinion, taking high amounts of iodine has generally not suppressed thyroid function in his patients. Full details of Dr. Wright's program can be found here.

Dr. Wright concludes: "All of the above takes place in an environment of hormone balance. It is important to KNOW your hormone levels and use supplements to compensate to any deficiencies. Progesterone supplementation is very important. Do NOT use commercial products, like Prometrium. Once resolved the fibrocystic condition should not return - unless you stop the supplements and fail to test."

THE IODINE/BREAST CANCER LINK
Let's return to Dr. Derry's theory, which connects iodine, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer. According to Dr. Derry: "Fibrocystic disease over decades of hormonal stimulation eventually tends to cause some cells to change to cancer cells. Lack of iodine causes fibrocystic disease, so women who have fibrocystic disease are susceptible to breast cancer. Although breast scars from fluid leakage out of the cysts are often permanent, iodine given therapeutically in the correct doses gradually gets rid of all fibrocystic disease except for the scars."

Dr. Derry continues: "How much iodine is enough? It has been shown that daily doses of iodine above two to three milligrams per day (about half a drop from a standard eyedropper) saturate the thyroid within a couple of weeks. At this point, the thyroid gland stops taking up iodine. This means that at a dietary intake above two to three milligrams, all of the iodine goes to all its other functions in the body, such as killing off abnormal cells."

Standard nutritional textbooks such as Prescription for Nutritional Healing cite an upper limit of about 750 mcg. of iodine (less than 1 mg.) as a safe dosage. We cannot make a definitive statement as to the correct dosage, but it may be that a high intake of iodine, at least temporarily, can be very beneficial for breast health. I personally take a 1 mg. tablet of Prolamine Iodine daily. If possible, we recommend electrodermal screening or some other method of accurate, personalized testing to determine what your body needs.

Dr. Derry goes on to state his personal theory regarding the causes of breast cancer. While many factors can play a role, he focuses on the fate of abnormal cells which may develop within the breast. Many researchers believe that abnormal cells occur within the body of every person. Those who develop cancer are those whose bodies cannot dispose of them efficiently.

Dr. Derry believes that the first step in the development of cancer is the gradual change of a normal cell into an abnormal cell, while the second phase is the spread of cancer cells in the connective tissue. Here is where iodine and thyroid hormone come into play. First, research suggests that iodine is a primary factor in the body's ability to rid itself of abnormal cells. Dr. Derry explains that iodine reacts with tyrosine and histidine (two common amino acids found in the human body) "which makes iodine rapidly kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other single-celled organisms at even very dilute (1/170,000) concentrations.... Iodine could therefore be the surveillance mechanism to remove cells that are abnormal." In other words, the same factors which make iodine a potent antiseptic can help your body get rid of abnormal and potentially dangerous cells.

The second phase of the potential spread of cancer, according to Dr. Derry, relates directly to the strength of connective tissue in the body. "The connective tissue barrier and function is controlled and strengthened by adequate levels of connective tissue thyroid hormone. Thus thyroid hormone controls the connective tissue barrier, and prevents the spread of cancer cells."

"Iodine in adequate doses prevents the development of cancer cells, and adequate thyroid hormone in the connective tissue prevents the spread."

Chemicals such as xeno-estrogens certainly play a part in breast cancer. However, Dr. Derry states that "if a person has enough iodine flowing through the body systems, the toxins cannot do much damage because iodine is one of the greatest inactivators of chemical toxins."

IODINE AND SEAWEED
Dr. Derry concludes his thought-provoking article by stating that the Japanese people have traditionally consumed an average of 8-10 mg. of iodine per day for hundreds or thousands of years. The Japanese don't take iodine tablets, instead they eat large quantities of seaweed, and they mulch their gardens with seaweed as well. Traditional dishes, from soups to sushi, contain various types of seaweed. Many researchers have tried to explain why the Japanese have some of the world's lowest rates of breast cancer, as well as many other types of cancer. Generally soy consumption is given credit. However, conflicting information has come out about soy in recent years-some good and some bad. It seems more likely that the high consumption of iodine, along with trace minerals from seaweed, has helped to keep the Japanese people healthy. Dr. Derry's complete article can be accessed here.

Iodine, of course, is necessary for thyroid function. The body essentially makes thyroid hormone out of iodine and the amino acid L-Tyrosine. This is why most thyroid supplements, such as Thyodine and Thyroid Energy, contain both iodine and tyrosine. These supplements as well as Prolamine Iodine, are available from The Green Willow Tree.

In conclusion, we may draw a possible connection between the dual epidemics of low thyroid function and breast cancer in today's world. Dr. E. Chester Ridgway, the University of Colorado's chief endocrinologist, estimates that hypothyroidism now exists in as much as 70% of the American population, while the incidence of breast cancer in the U.S. has nearly tripled in the past 50 years, becoming by far the most common cancer for women. Despite these statistics, we strongly believe that women can maintain their breast health by a program of intelligent nutrition and prevention.

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