Reducing Your Risk of Thyroid Cancer

This is a paper that I wrote for a class on cancer.  I was pleased with how it turned out and knew the information would be useful to others so I decided to post it to my website.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that sits at the base of the neck just above the collar bone. It functions to provide hormones that help to control weight, temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. This gland is vulnerable to cancer when supporting mineral levels such asselenium and iodine are low and toxic halides like fluoride and bromide are present. Mercury exposure can also increase the risk of cancer.

The National Cancer Institute (2008) estimates that in 2008, 37,340 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. An estimated 1,590 people will die of thyroid cancer during 2008. Thyroid cancer is considered to be one of the least deadly cancers. Survival rates at 5 years are almost 97%. (American Cancer Society, 2007)

Iodine is a critical nutrient for thyroid health. It is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and it induces apoptosis of abnormal thyroid cells. Iodine is needed for the creation of thyroid hormones and iodolactones - the mediators of cellular proliferation. (Cann, van Netten, and Glover, 1998) The residents of Michigan run a higher than average risk of developing thyroid cancer. This is because the state of Michigan is located in "The Goiter Belt". It is named this because of the low levels of iodine in the soil. From 1923 to 1924 the State of Michigan conducted a survey of goiters in four counties to represent different geographic regions and soil conditions of the state. All school children up to age 8 in the four counties were examined for goiter.  Sixty-six thousand were examined and 39% had visible thyroid enlargement. In the spring of 1924, the statewide campaign for goiter prevention was launched by introducing iodized salt which contained .02% of sodium iodide. Follow up surveys in 1928, 1935 and 1951 showed a 70-75% reduction of goiter.
(Kimball, 1937)

Personal Prevention

There are several personal action steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting thyroid cancer. The first is the avoidance of soy products. Soy is a goitrogen. Goitrogens are substances that block thyroid hormone production which can cause goiters (enlarging of the thyroid gland) and thyroid cancer. The goitrogenic activity is increased in an iodine deficient state. Kimura, Suwa, Ito, and Sato (1976) found that there was an interaction of low dietary iodine and soy as demonstrated by their findings that thyroid cancer appeared in rats fed an iodine-deficient diet consisting of 30% defatted soy.

The second important step that an individual should take is to avoid toxic halogens such as bromide and fluoride. Bromide lies just above iodine on the periodic chart. Therefore, it is close in size and weight to iodine and will compete for binding of iodine receptors in the thyroid gland. Bromide can be found in medications, citrus drinks and commercial bread products as potassium bromate (a dough conditioner). In the 1960's bromide replaced potassium iodate creating a lower supply of iodine in our food and increasing thyroid-blocking halides. Fluoride should also be avoided. The Fluoride Action Network has compiled a list of the hidden dangers of fluoride exposure in our foods. (2008) Fluoride exposure can come from many sources such as water, toothpaste, and lesser known items like processed cereal, fruit juices, wine, beer, soda and tea. It functions in the same manner as bromide by blocking iodine receptors in the thyroid.

Community and Political Actions

As a community, the concerned should be with the increasing levels of toxins around us. Because bromide is an unnecessary ingredient in our food products, health advocates may wish to target the local and national bakeries to encourage them to eliminate its use. Additionally, promoting this option to your congress people and FDA would be beneficial to encourage them to support a mandate of the usage of non-toxic alternatives. Because potassium iodate functions in the same manner as potassium bromate and was used safely in earlier years, it would be a viable alternative along with providing the much needed iodine. Governments could offer incentives for companies who produce their products using a healthier alternative to a toxic halide.

Malenchenko, Demidchik and Tadeush (1984) found that the highest bromide contents were found in thyroid cancer tissue exceeding almost 50 times that of non-cancerous thyroid tissue. Alternatives must be sought to control the toxic overload to the thyroid. Adopting a more "green" lifestyle and doing research on the products that are used can help to reduce the toxic load. User awareness education would be beneficial. Communities or hospitals could offer classes that would alert the public to the issues of exposure to this toxic halide. Also, with the advent of the internet, creating online information groups such as Yahoo Groups offer a mode of communicating important information to many people.

An additional project that community activists could undertake would be to concentrate on eliminating fluoride from the drinking supply. Griffiths (1992) in his article in Covert Action Quarterly discusses how Grand Rapids, Michigan came to be the first city to have fluoride added to its water supply as result of an elaborate marketing campaign in 1945 to eliminate a toxic waste product. Fluoride has never been proven to be beneficial in reducing caries in teeth.

Alternative Medicine Expert Advice

Experts in alternative medicine realize that thyroid cancer is a result of low nutrition levels and toxicity. As a result, a thyroid supporting protocol would be recommended.Iodine is a critical nutrient that should be supplemented. Dr. David Brownstein (2008, pp. 69-70), a holistic physician, describes iodine as an anticancer agent in his book. Cancer cells do not have a normal life cycle. Normal cells undergo a life cycle where they die and are replaced with new cells. This process is known as apoptosis. Iodine has been shown to induce apoptosis in thyroid cancer cells. Iodine does this through the iodination of lipids known as Iodo-lipids. When created, they stabilize the cell and help it to maintain a normal life cycle.Additionally, supplementing with selenium would be recommended. It is required in the production of 2 main selenoenzymes: glutathione peroxidase and iodothyronine deiodinase. Glutathione peroxidase protects the thyroid from oxidative damage and iodothyronine deiodinases are enzymes that are responsible for activating and deactivating thyroid hormones. (Brownstein, pp. 187-189)

Following the Ayurvedic philosophy concentration of the mind / body connection would emphasize the analyzing of lifestyle, emotions, environmental and hereditary factors. Tess Thompson (2008) addresses factors that have contributed to the over abundance of thyroid disease in her article on Chinese and Natural Indian Natural Thyroid Therapy. These items can be taken in a positive manner to be used as a method of maintaining optimum thyroid health. Thompson states that our fast paced life creates too little time for eating and sleeping. In Auyerveda, a goal would be to slow down and take time for these important elements. Both
Thompson (2008) and Hari Sharma (Sharma, pp. 92-99) addresses the issue of food. Optimum health comes from avoiding frozen, raw, cold and pesticide laden foods. Eating this form of food does not allow the "agni fire" of digestion to function properly.

Exercising regularly is also important and will allow your body to flush toxins. Energies of the body can be manipulated by performing yoga allowing for equilibrium of the psychic, physical, mental, and emotional. (Sharma, pp. 102)

The use of herbal supplements can be beneficial in maintaining thyroid health. Auyervedic medicine recommends herbs like ginger, peppermint, guggul and triphala. They are kidney and liver supporting herbs that assist them in functioning normally. This is important because the conversion of T4 to T3 (thyroid hormones) is done in these organs. (Thompson, 2008)

Finally, practicing meditation / prayer will allow you to connect with your spirit and God. This will give you a spiritual well being which is healing to the body.

There are many methods of reducing your risk of contracting thyroid cancer as have been outline in this article. Each offers its own unique benefits but in combination would offer the greatest protection. A holistic approach is always the best option when seeking optimal health. Supplementing with needed herbs and minerals, eliminating toxins and enhancing the immune system through body honoring practices will offer the greatest hope for avoiding thyroid cancer.


American Cancer Institute. Thyroid Cancer October 3, 2007. 6. 48 p. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from

Brownstein, D. (2008). Iodine: Why You Need It Why You Can't Live Without It (3rd ed.). West Bloomfield, MI: Medical Alternatives Press.

Cann, S. A., van Netten, J. P. & Glover, D. W. (1998). Iodide Accumulation in Extrathyroidal Tissues. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 84, 2., p. 821. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from;84/2/821

Griffiths, J. (1992). Fluoride: Commie Plot or Capitalist Ploy. Covert Action Quarterly, Fall, 42. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from

Kimball, O. P. (1937). Prevention of goiter in Michigan and Ohio. JAMA, (108), 860-864.

Kimura, S., Suwa, J., Ito, B. & Sato, H. (1976). Development of malignant goiter by defatted soybean with iodine-free diet in rats. Gann, (67), 763-765.

Malenchenko, A. F., Demidchik, E. P. & Tadeush, V. N. (September 29, 1984). Content and distribution of iodine, chlorine and bromine in normal and pathologically changed thyroid gland tissue. Med Radiol (Mosk), (9), 19-22.

Sharma, H., Mishra, R. K. & Meade, J. G. (2002). The Answer To Cancer (1st ed.). New York, NY: Select Books, Inc.

The Fluoride Action Network. The Fluoride Glut: Sources of Fluoride Exposure. FluorideAction Network. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from

Thompson, T. Chinese and Indian Natural Thyroid Therapy. Native Remedies. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from

U.S. National Institutes of Health. Thyroid Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved May 9, 2008 from