Preventing Breast Cancer with Iodine
Interview with Dr Alexander Haskell


Dr. Haskell is a licensed Naturopathic Physician with 27 years of clinical experience.  He completed his pre-med at San Francisco State University and graduated from the four year medical program at The National College of Natural Medicine.

Dr. Haskell’ specialty is the thyroid and endocrine system and has published two books, Low Thyroid Hormone Symptoms- 7 Causes & Seven Solutions and Hope for Hashimoto’s. Both books dedicate a special chapter to the prevention and treatment of breast disease and breast cancer.

Dr Haskell: Thank you, nice to meet you. So I will just take your lead on what you want to ask about and really if there are any questions or any clarifications just stop me and we’ll review it. I’ll try to explain things less medically to be as clear as possible with you.

Breast Health Project: I don’t see a lot of people talking about iodine and the potential side effects that can happen or I will right off say dangers that can happen from iodine supplementation. However, I see that you used to recommend Iodoral and now you are recommending a much lower dose. So I just wanted to talk to you about that and see if you could explain why that was.

Dr Haskell: I have a major concern with high doses of iodine and iodide even though I think the use of iodine and iodide are really important for breast health and for the treatments of breast disease and the prevention of breast cancer through improving breast health. The problem is that thyroid cells have special channels called sodium iodide symports. When a person takes iodide these symports are stimulated by a hormone called TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. Iodide actually causes an increase in TSH which stimulates these channels to absorb more of this iodide into these symports or traps which then contain a lot of iodide which can then be used when needed by thyroid cells to make thyroid hormones. Let’s look at an example?

You can see on this on lab test done on a 53 year old woman that her first TSH level was 3.5. So she has got plenty of TSH to simulate her thyroid cells to make more hormones. Below that you’ll see thyroxine or T4 which is on the low side at 6.1. It should be around eight or 8.5. At that time my thinking was to use Iodoral to feed her thyroid to make more hormones. It’s a very common problem, of having a higher TSH with a low production of thyroid hormones and its primarily because the thyroid is not getting the nutrients it needs to make its hormone such as iodide, zinc, selenium and sometimes iron. So we put her on the Iodoral product and on the next page you will see dated 08/13 her next lab test showing her TSH shot up to 107.

This is a huge increase in TSH. Dr. Brownstein has advised doctors that when you put your patient on Iodorol, don’t check them because their TSH is going to be elevated so just don’t test people.

The problem of high TSH is that, not only does it increase the absorption of iodide into these symports but TSH also stimulates thyroid cells in another way. In thyroid cells this iodide must be converted to iodine in order to make thyroid hormones. That conversion of iodide to iodine can take place because thyroid cells can manufacture hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is what transforms iodide into iodine. The problem is that hydrogen peroxide also creates inflammation in the thyroid. If elevated hydrogen peroxide goes on for a period of time theses thyroid cells will eventually become irritated, inflamed and start breaking apart.

And when thyroid cells break apart they release an enzyme called thyroperoxidase and also release a protein called thyroglobulin. They also release hydrogen peroxide into this system and this activates the white blood cells to go in and clean up the debris. This is when people develop antibodies to thyroid peroxidase, also known as Hashimoto's.

Breast Health Project: By having that constant inflammation, that’s creating an autoimmune condition in the thyroid?

Dr Haskell: Yes, exactly and I can show you other results. We tested one lady before putting her on iodide and iodine. She was Hashimoto's negative but within three months she developed Hashimoto's.

Breast Health Project: So why wouldn’t they just use iodine, why would they use iodine and iodide in Iodorol?

Dr Haskell: You mean why is the formulation that way?

Breast Health Project: Yeah.

Dr Haskell: I am not really sure of the reason for that except that iodide is essential for proper thyroid production of its hormones and it’s a trace mineral that’s very important for people who are deficient. I think it was a way of providing plenty of what the body needs in order to have optimal levels of thyroid hormones and also the iodine is protective for reducing the damage from environmental toxins and these endocrine disrupting chemicals we have in the environment.

I take a fairly conservative approach when it comes to iodine and iodide. I have results showing that when a person takes lower doses of iodine and iodide, as well as selenium, even then if their TSH is going up their thyroid is still protected and their antibodies or their TPO or peroxidase antibodies remain in the normal range.

Breast Health Project: Okay, so you are just using a lower dose and the supportive nutrients and minerals?

Dr Haskell: Yes, the selenium acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps to protect the thyroid from higher doses of iodide.

Breast Health Project: So the product that you are using is the iodine and iodide but it’s just the lower dose?

Dr Haskell: Yes, instead of the 12.5 milligram per tablet we’ve reduced it down to 3 milligrams. Typically it’s been a 12.5 of the combination and you know I think in some situations like breast cancer and cystic breast conditions probably the woman will need higher doses - probably 6 milligrams. But they really need to take selenium at the same time.

Breast Health Project: What dose of selenium?

Dr Haskell: 400 micrograms is the maximum that I feel is safe. We also have the results with breasts using thermography before and after using the higher doses of Iodoral. So I know it works but just that it needs to be used with much more caution.

Breast Health Project: Yeah, so do you use it sometimes or you always use a lower dose first and then if that doesn’t work then you can increase the dose?

Dr Haskell: It depends on each individual. As a general statement I would put them on a low dose, to get them started right away on selenium for sure and put them on a low dose of iodide and iodine of usually 3 milligrams. If they have a lot of cysts, breast cyst and things like that or breast cancer I usually go with the six milligram dose.

But everyone, and I mean everyone with breast cysts and breast cancer should be checked for Hashimoto’s first. This is a very common underlying condition as is low thyroid hormones. These need to be addressed at the same time.

If they are taking plenty of selenium for about two months at least and then if we have not seen a major shift in either pain or the cysts then we will probably go up to 12.5 or 25 milligrams for a period of time while monitoring TSH and thyroid antibodies, and then when things clear we’ll return to three or six milligrams every day for the rest of their life.

Breast Health Project: How common is it that you see that, the spike in the TSH and the potential for autoimmune is that, is that a fluke that happens only to some people. Not that it shouldn’t be cautionary but is that something that you think will happen to most people overtime if they are on such a high dose without the selenium?

Dr Haskell: Almost every person taking high doses from 25 milligrams on up will develop high TSH depending upon their levels of selenium. If they are deficient in selenium they are definitely going to develop thyroid inflammation. Whether that goes on to becoming actually an autoimmune condition is pretty unpredictable.

Breast Health Project: I haven't seen the information that you are putting out anywhere else. Because a lot of the information is just saying take Iodoral. But I have seen clients have problems. I was surprised to see what you said because, a lot of the practitioners are saying it takes four Iodoral to load and then go down to a regular dose. That’s a lot of iodine! What were the original recommendations from? Was it the Japanese diet and how much food people were eating or-?

Dr Haskell: I think that’s probably where all this began. You know no one really understood at the time, the reasons for that lower incidents of breast cancer in the Japanese population and you know a lot of people are speculating. It was thought that maybe somehow iodine or iodide was shifting estrogens towards the E3 form and away from the E1 but I’ve tried to confirm that in the research but it’s nowhere to be found.

Breast Health Project: Okay.

Dr Haskell: The higher intake of iodine and iodide in the Japanese diet was the reason why their incidence of breast disease was much lower. But you know we are now talking about a supplement which is strictly just one or two trace elements. If you look at those foods the Japanese were eating, its rich in selenium as well. We tend to take things, break them down, to look at what we can extract or what we can make into a supplement. We lose the concept of holistic medicine, which considers all the ingredients which support and synergistically work together. So I think this way of extracting nutrients is not the best approach for improving people’s health.

Breast Health Project: Do you ever recommend just eating more seaweed for people as a protectant?

Dr Haskell: Yeah, I followed that line of thinking which is really a viable approach. But when I approached Gaia Herbs out in North Carolina and said, look I’d like to have us produce an extract from pure kelp. They got back to me in a week and said that if I wanted to produce an equivalent to three milligrams of iodide and iodine they couldn’t do it. Making that high of a concentration would contain high amounts of arsenic. I think this is because the vegetation in the ocean acts as a kind of chelating or purifying agent, cleaning up what we are throwing away or disposing of.

Breast Health Project: Really!

Dr Haskell: Yeah.

Breast Health Project: Interesting, so what is the version of the iodine and iodide. Is it just chemical production?

Dr Haskell: Yeah, it’s synthetic.

Breast Health Project: And the product you recommend is on your website?


Dr Haskell: Yes.

Dr Haskell: It’s very important for women to understand that there is a number of risk factors which I think are pretty well explained in my videos. But optimizing thyroid hormones is probably the most important thing they can do and part of the logic behind that is if you optimize thyroid hormone production you are also optimizing some really important nutrients such as iodide, iodine, zinc and selenium at the same time. I think this is the primary reason why hypothyroidism or suboptimal thyroid hormone production is a risk factor for developing breast disease and breast cancer because it’s the same underlying cause of etiology.

Breast Health Project: That makes a lot of sense.

Dr Haskell: Yeah and the problem, really the root of the problem here is that our medical system is oriented towards pharmacy, which I don’t have a problem within certain areas or certain conditions. But they are waiting years and decades until finally a woman is diagnosed as being hypothyroid and nothing is being addressed during those decades around the optimization of thyroid hormones. It’s a crime. The system is waiting until people are sick before they get treatment.

And in this current model the treatment is to prescribe pharmacy without any cognition of the reason why the person is in that condition of hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s in the first place. And Hashimoto’s is primary cause of hypothyroidism in North America. Yet Hashimoto’s is simply being treated with thyroid medication even though it’s an autoimmune condition. This is outrageous. So I am trying to do whatever I can to educate both the public and physicians about the ideal which is prevention and the use of supplements, nutrition and sometimes pharmacy.

Breast Health Project: That’s a whole different model but I think its important.

Dr Haskell: Yeah.

Breast Health Project: And some people talk about using high doses of salt to prevent the high TSH reactions, have you found that or do you know anything about that?

Dr Haskell: You are talking about just using salt?

Breast Health Project: Yeah they use high doses of salt to try to get the iodine, the body get used to iodine I guess before they start using the Iodoral and preventing this reaction of the high TSH?

Dr Haskell: I have not heard that but I assume you are talking about iodized salt.

Breast Health Project: Yeah.

Dr Haskell: I want to make one point first before I answer that question. One condition, one diagnosis which is accepted in medicine is called subclinical hypothyroidism. This is a condition where TSH is high, at least above 4.5 and their thyroxin or thyroid hormone production is on the low side.

In this situation what's happening is this. When the body starts to become deficient in iodide, TSH will begin to increase because whatever iodide is in the body it wants to get it into these symports, these iodide traps, so it increases TSH in order to up regulate or stimulate these channels to absorb as much iodide as possible. So really the first stage of an iodide deficiency is an increase in TSH. This is called subclinical hypothyroidism. I think the percentage of people with subclinical hypothyroidism who go on to develop Hashimoto’s is about fifty percent. I think you now understand the reason why this is so, because this elevated TSH is stimulating the production hydrogen peroxide inside these thyroid cells.

So to a person that starts taking a lot more iodized salt with a teaspoon of iodized salt being around three hundred micrograms of iodide they may initially bring their TSH down but with higher doses their TSH may start to increase too much. And if they are selenium deficient some problems are likely to develop.

Breast Health Project: So its only a temporary fix?

Dr Haskell: Yeah it’s only temporary. I think it’s temporary because as the thyroid gets more iodide and then starts to make more hormones then the hormones are going to go up and the TSH is going to start coming down. But if they continue and go on to an Iodoral like product their TSH is going go up just like that lady’s did.

Breast Health Project: Okay.... How does vitamin D play a role?

Breast Health Project: With lab tests we are only able to measure what's in the blood stream. And all hormones are either bound to proteins or they are available and free to leave the circulatory system and go out into the tissues, into the interstitial fluid, and then to pass through cell membranes. With thyroid hormones they bind to receptor sites into inside the cells. Vitamin D plays a very important role because these thyroid receptor sites inside the nucleus of the cell are made from proteins, vitamin D and vitamin A. So a lack of vitamin D is going to cause fewer of these thyroid hormone receptors. You can have perfect levels of thyroid hormones in the blood stream but you can experience low thyroid hormone symptoms because of a lack of vitamin D and also a lack of vitamin A.

Breast Health Project: So do you recommend people that are taking the one thousand or five thousand micrograms?

Dr Haskell: Yes, but there is a problem with supplementing vitamin D. There was one study, I think it was out of Australia, where they measured the levels of vitamin D in lifeguards. They found that the upper limit of D was around ninety or somewhere in there. I guess their levels couldn’t go above that because of the darker pigmentation. So ideally a person should be around maybe sixty or seventy, somewhere in there. This means that we need to monitor a person’s vitamin D through labs.

The problem is that sometimes people take too much D and they are getting up in the hundreds and this interferes with thyroid hormone production. I believe what happens is that their T3 levels start to go up because the body can't utilize it for some reason, something happens with high levels of D which is not really clear to me yet but I just keep people around sixty to seventy.

Breast Health Project: Okay, most people are low and you are saying that people can get too high?

Dr Haskell: Yeah, the low levels are partly due to the use of sunscreens and the reduced intake of cholesterol rich foods. Cholesterol is required for the body to produce vitamin D. Low cholesterol is a real problem because all of the male and female hormones and the hormones produced by the adrenals, the cortisol all these hormones, have the backbone of cholesterol. People are afraid of cholesterol, and therefore we see low levels of progesterone and low levels of cortisol because the body is just not able to produce these hormones because it doesn’t have what it needs to make them.

BHP: Is there anything else?

Dr Haskell: One thing you know in David Brownstein’s book, which I am sure you have read, he speaks about a particular phenomenon which is called the Wolff–Chaikoff effect. This term can be found in any recent medical physiology book and it describes a mechanism which protects the body and the thyroid from high amount of iodide and iodine. Brownstein puts this down, he says that it’s not true. But look at this lab report. The first report shows Free T3 or triiodothyronine at 3.6. This is pretty normal. It is the free and available T3 that activates the body’s metabolism.

But now look at this person’s follow up lab result. After 6 months on Iodoral you’ll see that her Free T3 is now low at 2.2. This is very low. I don’t see this very often. This is proof of this Wolff–Chaikoff effect. This is what will happen to a person taking too much iodide and iodine, their levels of circulating thyroid hormones will drop. Brownstein is wrong, it does happen with high dose of this Iodoral. So I just wanted to put that last little tidbit in that people really need to be cautious about using high doses because it will screw up their available thyroid hormones.

Dr Haskell is available for consultations. 

To read more about him, click here. 

To contact him, click here.

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