Insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are well known as key regulators of energy metabolism and growth. There is now considerable evidence that these hormones and the signal transduction networks they regulate have important roles in neoplasia. Epidermiological, clinical and laboratory research methods are being used to investigate novel cancer prevention and treatment strategies related to insulin and IGF signalling. Pharmacological strategies under study include the use of novel receptor-specific antibodies, receptor kinase inhibitors and AMP-activated protein kinase activators such as metformin. There is evidence that insulin and IGF signalling may also be relevant to dietary and lifestyle factors that influence cancer risk and cancer prognosis. Recent results are encouraging and have justified the expansion of many translational research programmes.