Breast Cancer

There is suggestive evidence of a preventive role for iodine in breast cancer. As far back as 1896 research has suggested a link between iodine deficiency, thyroid disease and breast cancer (Smyth 2003). More recently, epidemiological data have demonstrated a correlation between increased incidence of breast cancer and a range of thyroid conditions, most notably hypothyroidism (Smyth 2003). In addition, the observed low rates of breast cancer in Japan are speculated to be partly due to a high dietary iodine intake, further suggesting a protective effect.

It is noteworthy that both the thyroid and the breast share the capacity to concentrate iodide, which exerts an antioxidant effect and protects cells from peroxidative damage (Venturi 2001). Whereas the thyroid retains this capacity throughout life, the breast can only concentrate iodide during pregnancy and lactation, states associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. It has been theorised that with iodine insufficiency during pregnancy and lactation, the protective effect of iodide may be compromised, concomitant with diminished antioxidant activity. Researchers speculate that this scenario may be compounded by coexisting selenium deficiency (Turken et al 2003).

Besides the diminished antioxidant effect, studies with animal models show that iodine deficiency results in changes in the mammary gland that makes it more sensitive to the effects of oestradiol (Strum 1979). Oestradiol stimulates cell division, which eventually results in cyst formation, and dietary supplementation with iodine can improve these alterations.

At present the only interventional evidence comes from studies of rats, which found that administration of Lugol's iodine or iodine-rich Wakame seaweed © 2007 Elsevier Australia

suppressed the development of Induced mammary tumours (Funahashl et al 2001) and rigorous human studies are required.

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