Do height-related variations in insulin-like growth factors underlie the associations of stature with adult chronic disease?

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jan;89(1):213-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2003-030507.


Tall people, particularly those with long legs, have an increased risk of developing cancer but a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. We examined associations of stature and body mass index with IGF-I, IGF-II, and IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-2 and IGFBP-3 in 274 men aged 50-70 yr to investigate whether variations in growth factor levels underlie associations of anthropometry with a number of adult diseases. Height and leg and trunk length were not strongly associated with circulating levels of IGF-I, IGF-II, or IGFBP-3. The molar ratio of IGF-I/IGFBP-3 increased with increases in the leg/trunk length ratio (P = 0.06). IGFBP-2 was positively associated with leg length and inversely associated with trunk length. Mean levels of IGFBP-2 (in nanograms per milliliter) across quartiles of increasing leg length were 504.4 493.6, 528.7, and 578.8 (P(trend) = 0.06), and for trunk length were 615.2, 507.2, 498.6, 488.5 (P(trend) < 0.01), suggesting that variations in IGFBP-2, or a factor influencing its levels in the circulation, may contribute to biological mechanisms underlying height-disease associations. We conclude that whereas growth-influencing exposures during childhood, which may operate through effects on IGF-I levels, have long-term influences on disease risk, they do not necessarily program IGF-I levels throughout life. The associations of anthropometry with IGFBP-2 merit additional investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 2 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / analysis
  • Leg / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Somatomedins / analysis*


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 2
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Somatomedins
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II