Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) is a systemic hormone with potent mitogenic and anti-apoptotic properties, which could influence the proliferative behavior of normal breast cells. Limited epidemiological observations suggest that the hormone may play a role in the etiology of breast cancer, especially at pre-menopausal ages. In a prospective case-control study nested within a cohort of New York City women, IGF-I, IGF-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) and C peptide were measured in frozen serum samples from 172 pre-menopausal and 115 post-menopausal subjects who were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. Subjects were eligible if diagnosed 6 months or more after recruitment into the study (7 to 120 months). Cohort members who matched the cases on age, menopausal status, date of blood sampling and day of menstrual cycle at blood collection served as controls. Post-menopausal breast cancer was not associated with serum IGF-I, IGFBP-3 or C-peptide levels. However, the risk of breast cancer increased with increasing serum concentrations of IGF-I in pre-menopausal women. The odds ratio (OR) for the highest quartile of IGF-I (>256 ng/ml) compared to the lowest (<168 ng/ml) was 1.60 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.91-2. 81]. The OR decreased to 1.49 (95% CI 0.80-2.79) after adjustment for IGFBP-3. In analyses restricted to subjects who were pre-menopausal at the time of blood sampling and whose cancer was diagnosed before age 50, the top vs. bottom quartile OR increased appreciably to 2.30 (95% CI 1.07-4.94). Adjustment for IGFBP-3 reduced the OR to 1.90 (95% CI 0.82-4.42). There was no association between pre-menopausal breast cancer and IGFBP-3, IGF-I:IGFBP-3 ratio or non-fasting levels of C peptide. Elevated circulating levels of IGF-I may be an indicator of increased risk of breast cancer occurring before age 50.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.