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Prevention of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

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Prevention of Fibrocystic Breast Disease  

Is there anything I can do to prevent getting fibrocystic disease of the breast?

Yes. Certain dietary practices, some nutritional supplements, and balancing hormones have been shown to help prevent fibrocystic disease of the breast.

An estimated 30% of women in the U.S. have fibrocystic disease of the breast.[1]

Typically, fibrocystic changes of the breast are soft and mobile, benign (i.e., non-cancerous) lumps, which can make the breasts feel lumpy or bumpy in many pre-menopausal women and many post-menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy.[2] Also, some pre-menopausal women with fibrocystic disease of the breast experience related pain or tenderness in their breasts during certain parts of their menstrual cycle. In pre-menopausal women, fibrocystic changes of the breast tend to come and go with the menstrual cycle.

The following changes in diet and nutritional supplementation have helped some women to prevent and/or experience a reduction in fibrocystic changes of the breast [1 - 4]

• Eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Consuming foods that are less acidic can help to make the bloodstream less acidic and more neutral (i.e., in pH), thereby preventing inflammation or reducing the amount of inflammation occurring in the body. Eliminating or reducing alcohol intake and reducing consumption of animal products also can prevent or reduce inflammation. In addition, completely avoiding caffeine can lower inflammation. Furthermore, regularly eating lots of salmon, mackerel, herring, and other cold-water fish that are abundant in omega 3 fish oils; regularly eating flaxseed; and regularly eating foods containing flavonoids can help reduce inflammation.
• Eliminating or reducing consumption of chocolate
• Reducing intake of salt in the diet
• Reducing intake of dietary fats
• Drinking lots of water
• Regularly taking supplements containing omega 3 fish oils, which can help reduce inflammation
• Regularly taking supplements containing flavonoids, which can help reduce inflammation
• Taking vitamin E supplements daily
• Taking thiamine supplements daily
• Increasing dietary iodine intake by eating more seafood and sea vegetables
• Taking daily oral iodine supplements (e.g., molecular iodine) or daily oral iodide supplements (e.g., potassium iodide)
• Taking supplements containing evening primrose, black currant, or borage oil
• Although taking aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce inflammation in the body, first trying nutritional methods to reduce inflammation is recommended.
• For pre-menopausal women experiencing irregular periods, peri-menopausal women, and post-menopausal women, exploring hormonal balancing with guidance from an integrative medical physician or gynecologist experienced in the use of bio-identical hormones and alternative therapies can be a helpful approach. Natural progesterone cream is helpful for some women.

Oral iodine and iodides used in various clinical studies of prevention and treatment of fibrocystic breast disease include:[3, 4]

• Molecular iodine
• Other oral pharmaceutical preparations of iodine or iodides
• Food-grade iodine

Molecular iodine may be obtained from a compounding pharmacy.[4] Mere use of iodized salt in the diet however, does not constitute appropriate prevention or treatment of fibrocystic breast disease.[1]

Scientists believe that the protective and therapeutic effects of oral iodine and iodides on fibrocystic disease of the breast involve the following mechanisms:[1, 3, 4]

• Preventing or treating iodine deficiency
• Normalizing function of the thyroid
• Making breast cells less sensitive to the effects of estrogen

Larger clinical studies, however, show that treatment with molecular iodine may be associated with certain (and typically minor) side effects, including:[3, 4]

• Temporary increase in pain of the breast
• Headache
• Acne
• Skin rash
• Thinning of the hair
• Nausea
• Diarrhea
• Hyperthyroidism
• Hypothyroidism

Furthermore, the following possible side effects have been reported in people taking pharmaceutical doses of iodine or iodides:[4]

• Skin rash
• Runny nose
• Excess production of saliva
• Metallic taste in the mouth

For guidance on prevention of fibrocystic disease of the breast, consult your integrative medical physician. Before taking any nutritional supplements or pharmaceuticals for prevention of fibrocystic breast disease, discuss your medical history with your integrative medical physician, your gynecologist, and your other healthcare professionals.

It is important to note that fibrocystic changes in a woman who does not have a strong family history of breast cancer generally do not increase the woman’s chances of getting breast cancer.[5] A few women with fibrocystic breast disease, however, have a relatively rare condition in which these patients are at higher risk for developing breast cancer.[2] Clinical, radiology (e.g., ultrasound and mammography), and laboratory evaluation (i.e., fine needle aspiration biopsy) by a physician can distinguish between the usual type of fibrocystic changes of the breast and rare conditions associated with fibrocystic breast disease.

If you are a pre-menopausal woman, be aware that the feeling of your breasts change during your menstrual cycle. You need to become familiar with how your breasts feel during the various parts of your cycle, so that you recognize what is normal for you.

If you are a post-menopausal woman, you need to become familiar with how your breasts usually feel, so that you recognize what is normal for you.

Regardless of your age as an adult woman, when you become familiar with the normal feeling of your breasts, you will be able to recognize changes when and if they occur.


1. D.Williams. Other thyroid trouble. Alternatives. 10(24):190.

2. C. Scott-Connor. Fibrocystic breast disease: Frequently asked questions. Virtual Hospital. Accessed at www.vh.org/adult/patient/surgery/faq/fibrocysticbreastdisease.html.

3. W.R. Ghent. Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Canadian Journal of Surgery. 1993; 36:453-460.

4. A.R. Gaby. Iodine treatment of fibrocystic breast disease. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. 11/04.

5. G. Emery. Correction: Benign breast disease, history studied. Reuters. 07/20/05. Reuters. Accessed at www.reuters.com.

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