By Russell L. Blaylock, MD, CCN
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women worldwide and breast cancer rates are increasing rapidly.
A compelling number of studies, though not all, have shown that free iron concentrations in breast tissue, especially the ductal tissue, is playing a major role in stimulating cancer development and eventual progression to aggressive, deadly cancers.1,2
Cancers are Very Dependent on Iron
Iron is needed for DNA replication in rapidly dividing cells.3
A recent report from the Department of Biomolecular Sciences in Urbino Italy, found that fluid taken from the nipple of cancer patients contained significantly higher levels of aluminum than did nipple fluid taken from women without breast cancer—approximately twice as much aluminum.4
A number of studies have found that extracting nipple fluid by a breast pump (in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women) is a simple way to study the microenvironment of the ductal tissue, the site of development of most breast cancers.5
Examining this ductal fluid is an excellent way to measure such things as iron levels, ferritin (an iron-binding protein), CRP (a measure of breast inflammation) and aluminum.
The researchers also found that women with breast cancer had much higher levels of ferritin, an iron transport protein, in their breast fluid, which was 5X higher in women with breast cancer.6
This observation has been confirmed in other studies.
In previous studies researchers found that one's intake of iron did not necessarily correlate with risk of breast cancer, but rather the release of iron from its protective proteins, such as ferritin and transferrin was critical.7
This distinction is very important and explains why some studies found no link between iron intake in the diet and breast cancer incidence.8
Free Iron Can Be Very Dangerous
Over 90% of iron absorbed from your diet is normally bound to these protective proteins. Recent studies have shown that some things we do can cause too much of the iron to be released into surrounding tissues, and if this iron exists as free iron, it can trigger intense inflammation, free radical generation and lipid peroxidation.
Bound iron is relatively harmless.
So, what can cause these protective proteins to release their iron?
One factor is an excessive alcohol intake. Studies by Lee et al have shown that women who drink greater than 20 grams of alcohol a day significantly increase the free iron in their breast tissue and have a higher incidence of invasive breast cancer—the most deadly form.9
It has also been shown that excessive estrogen can displace iron from its protective proteins, thus increasing free iron levels and associated breast cancer risk. 10 This helps explain the link between high estrogen levels and breast cancer.
Of more importance than the total intake of iron is where the iron ends up that is absorbed from your food.
As stated, most of it is bound to protective proteins, such as transferrin in the blood and ferritin within cells. If you have a lot of extra space within these proteins for binding iron, then a high dietary iron intake would be less harmful.
Previously it was thought that a spillover of free iron occurred only when the protective proteins (tranferrin and ferritin) were fully saturated, as we see with the condition hemochromatosis.
How Aluminum and Alcohol Worsen Iron Toxicity
We now know that both aluminum and alcohol can displace the iron from its protective proteins, raising the level of harmful free iron, even when these protective proteins are not fully saturated with iron.9
If this occurs within the breast, as this study demonstrates, free iron levels in the breast ductal tissue can become dangerously high and over time induce malignant tumor formation.
The question to be asked is--where did the aluminum come from?
The authors of the paper suggested underarm antiperspirants as a possibility. But, there is another source that is becoming increasingly a problem and that is from vaccine adjuvants.
Vaccines are a Major Source of Aluminum for Many
The amount of aluminum in vaccines is tremendous, especially in such vaccines as the anthrax vaccine, hepatitis vaccine and tetanus vaccine.
Since many American children are being exposed to multiple doses of aluminum containing vaccines by the time they are 6 years old, one would expect very high exposures to injected aluminum.
A recent study by Lucija Tomljenovik and Chris Shaw found that a newborn receives a dose of aluminum that exceeds FDA safety limits (5mg/kg/day) for injected aluminum by 20-fold, and at 6 months of age a dose that was 50-fold higher than FDA safety limits.12
Aluminum at this young age will accumulate in various tissues and with new vaccine recommendations, children and young adults may be exposed to many more aluminum containing vaccines every year throughout life.
With the ability of aluminum to displace iron from its protective proteins, we may not only see a dramatic increase in breast cancer, but also other iron-related diseases, such as liver degeneration, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, heart failure and atherosclerosis.13 No one is addressing this very real danger.
- 1 Wu T et al. Serum iron, copper and zinc concentrations and the risk of cancer mortality in US adults. Ann Epidemiol 2004; 14: 195-201.
- 2 Cade J et al. Case-control study of breast cancer in southeast England: Nutritional factors. Epidemiol Community Health 1998; 52: 105-110.
- 3 Kalinowski DS, Richardson DR. The evolution of iron chelators for the treatment of iron overload disease and cancer. Pharmacol Rev 2005; 57: 547-583.
- 4 Mannello F, et al. Analysis of aluminum content and iron homeostasis in nipple aspirate fluids from healthy women and breast cancer-affected patients. J Appl Toxicol 2011; Feb 21,(ahead of print)
- 5 Mannello F et al. Iron-binding proteins and C-reactive protein in nipple aspirate fluids: role of iron-0driven inflammation in breast microenvironment. Am J Transl Res 2011;3: 100-113.
- 6 Mannello et al and Shpyleva SI et al. Role of ferritin alterations in human breast cancer cells. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2011; 126: 63-71.
- 7 Lithgow D et al. C-reactive protein in nipple aspirate fluid: relation to women's health factors. Nurs Res 2006; 65: 418-425.
- 8 Kabat GC et al. Dietary iron and heme iron intake and risk of breast cancer: a prospective cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007; 16:1306-1308.
- 9 Lee DH et al. Dietary iron intake and breast cancer: The Iowa Women's Health Study. Proc Am Assoc Cancer Res 2004; 45: A2319.
- 10 Wyllie S, Liehr JG. Release of iron from ferritin storage by redox cycling of stilbene and steroid estrogen metabolites: a mechanism of induction of free radical damage by estrogen. Arch Biochem Biophys 1997; 346: 180-186.
- 11 Flarend et al. In vivo absorption of aluminum-containing vaccine adjuvants using Al-26. Vaccine 1997 15, 1314-1318.
- 12 Tomljenovic L and Shaw C. 2011 in press.
- 13 Weinberg ED. Iron toxicity. Ox Med Cell Longevity 2009; 2: 107-109.