Recent studies have reported that serum IGF-I levels in the highest quartile of the normal range and IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) in the lowest quartile of the normal range are associated with an increased risk of future prostate cancer and/or presence of prostate cancer. It has also been suggested that the measurement of circulating total IGF-I concentrations might be a useful tool for the early detection of prostate cancer in men with moderately increased prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. To determine whether circulating free IGF-I, total IGF-I, and IGFBP-3 levels can predict future prostate cancer risk, we prospectively studied prostate cancer characteristics in a cohort of men during two rounds (mean interval, 4 yr) of a population-based screening study for prostate cancer. Two hundred one prostate cancer cases were detected at the second-round screening (aged 55-70 yr), and all these subjects were enrolled in the case group for the present study. Prostate cancer had been confirmed by biopsy in all cases. These 201 subjects were matched with the 201 nonprostate cancer cases by age, serum PSA range at the first-round screening (PSA < 2 ng/ml, n = 67; PSA = 2-3 ng/ml, n = 67; and PSA = 3-4 ng/ml, n = 67), and residence area. At baseline, total IGF-I, free IGF-I, and IGFBP-3 levels and prostate volume of cases with prostate cancer were not different from those of healthy controls. PSA velocity was significantly different between cases and controls (P < 0.001).Stepwise forward logistic regression analysis showed that only PSA levels at baseline and PSA at round 2 after 4 yr are good predictors of prostate cancer, whereas total IGF-I, free IGF-I, and IGFBP-3 did not predict the development of prostate cancer. Only one of the 201 subjects with prostate cancer had metastases. Within the subjects with prostate cancer, there were no differences of IGF-I parameters with different tumor node metastasis categories and/or Gleason scores. Our study suggests that the measurement of serum IGF-I and/or IGFBP-3 concentrations in addition to PSA does not improve the identification of men at high risk to develop early stages of prostate cancer. In addition, our results indicate that the endocrine IGF-I system is not directly involved in the growth of the early stages of prostate cancer.