The insulin-like growth factor 1 gene (IGF1) is a strong candidate gene for a breast cancer susceptibility model. We investigated a dinucleotide repeat 969 bp upstream from the transcription start site of the IGF1 gene for possible associations with plasma IGF1 levels and breast cancer risk in a multiethnic group of postmenopausal women. Furthermore, we investigated the relation between race/ethnicity, mean plasma IGF1 levels and breast cancer rates in the Hawaii/Los Angeles Multiethnic Cohort. The mean age-adjusted IGF1 level among Latino-American women, 116 ng ml(-1), was statistically significantly lower than the mean age-adjusted IGF1 levels for each of the three other racial/ethnic groups, African-American, Japanese-American and Non-Latino White women (146, 144 and 145 ng ml(-1), respectively) (P<0.0001). Latino-American women have the lowest breast cancer rates of any racial/ethnic group in the cohort. These results support the investigation of an expansion of the hypothesis for an important role of IGF1 in breast cancer tumorigenesis to different racial/ethnic groups and to postmenopausal women. It is unlikely that any involvement of IGF1 in breast cancer aetiology is mediated by the IGF1 dinucleotide repeat polymorphism, which was not significantly associated with circulating IGF1 levels nor breast cancer risk in this study. Research into relevant determinants of IGF1 levels in the blood must continue.