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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 21: IGF-1 and breast cancer risk


Table 21: IGF-1 and breast cancer risk


This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a natural hormone in the body. It plays an important role in growth and development.

Although it is vital to human health, there is a growing body of evidence that IGF-1 may be linked to breast cancer. Results from two large nested case-control studies and two pooled analyses suggest higher blood levels of IGF-1 may increase the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women. However, the data overall are mixed. Much more research is needed to understand the role that IGF-1 and similar hormones (like prolactin) may play in breast cancer development.

Another issue is the current lack of a standard for analyzing the blood levels of hormones like IGF-1. Until there is an agreed-upon standard measure, the results from future studies are likely to remain mixed.

Learn more about IGF-1 and breast cancer risk

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer.

Study selection criteria: Nested case-control studies with at least 300 breast cancer cases and pooled analyses

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.


Study Population
(number of participants)

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with Higher versus Lower IGF-1 Levels,
RR (95% CI)

Nested case-control studies 






EPIC [1]



1.03 (0.60-1.77)

1.38 (1.02-1.86)

Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study [2]




1.21 (0.85-1.72)

Nurses' Health Study II [3]



1.6 (1.0-2.5)

1.0 (0.7-1.4)

Kaaks et al. [4]



0.63 (0.29-1.39)

1.29 (0.80-2.07)

Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study [5]



0.83 (0.49-1.38)

1.59 (1.03-2.44)

Gronbaek et al. [6]




0.97 (0.87-1.08)

Nurses' Health Study [7]



2.88 (1.21-6.85)

0.89 (0.51-1.55)

Vatten et al. [8]



1.46 (0.93-2.32)


Pooled analysis 




1.21 (1.00-1.45) 

 1.33 (1.14-1.55)

Renehan et al. [10]



1.93 (1.38-2.69)

0.95 (0.62-1.33)

Shi et al. [11]



1,306 premenopausal

1,552 postmenopausal

1.38 (1.13-1.69)

1.02 (0.77-1.36)

Sugumar et al. [12]



1.74 (0.97-3.13)



  1. Rinaldi S, Peeters PH, Berrino F, et al. IGF-I, IGFBP-3 and breast cancer risk in women: The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Endocr Relat Cancer. 13(2):593-605, 2006.
  2. Gunter MJ, Hoover DR, Yu H, et al. Insulin, insulin-like growth factor-I, and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 101(1):48-60, 2009.
  3. Schernhammer ES, Holly JM, Pollak MN, Hankinson SE. Circulating levels of insulin-like growth factors, their binding proteins, and breast cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 14(3):699-704, 2005.
  4. Kaaks R, Lundin E, Manjer J, et al. Prospective study of IGF-I, IGF-binding proteins, and breast cancer risk, in Northern and Southern Sweden. Cancer Causes Controls. 13:307-316, 2002.
  5. Baglietto L, English DR, Hopper JL, Morris HA, Tilley WD, Giles GG. Circulating insulin-like growth factor-I and binding protein-3 and the risk of breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 16(4):763-8, 2007.
  6. Gronbaek H, Flyvbjerg A, Mellemkjaer L, et al. Serum insulin-like growth factors, insulin-like growth factor binding proteins, and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 13(11 Pt 1):1759-64, 2004.
  7. Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Colditz GA, et al. Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-I and risk of breast cancer. Lancet. 351:1393-1396, 1998.
  8. Vatten LJ, Holly JM, Gunnell D, Tretli S. Nested case-control study of the association of circulating levels of serum insulin-like growth factor I and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 with breast cancer in young women in Norway. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 17(8):2097-100, 2008.
  9. Key TJ, Appleby PN, Reeves GK, Roddam AW for the Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), and breast cancer risk: pooled individual data analysis of 17 prospective studies. Lancet Oncol. 11(6):530-42, 2010.
  10. Renehan AG, Zwahlen M, Minder C, O’Dwyer ST, Shalet SM, Egger M. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF binding protein-3, and cancer risk: systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Lancet. 363(9418):1346-7, 2004.
  11. Shi R, Yu H, McLarty J, Glass J. IGF-I and breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Cancer. 111(3):418-23, 2004.
  12. Sugumar A, Liu YC, Xia Q, et al. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGF-binding protein 3 and the risk of premenopausal breast cancer: a meta-analysis of literature. Int J Cancer. 111(2):293-7, 2004.

Updated 08/30/13