The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system plays essential role in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and survival and affects nearly every organ system in the body. IGF-I, which has a high structural similarity to insulin, exerts growth-promoting effects, influences glucose metabolism and has neuroprotective and cardioprotective effects, partly because of its cell-proliferative and antiapoptotic properties. Aberrations in the IGF system may associate with various pathological conditions, including cancer. Insulin and its synthetic analogs are known to possess IGF-IR binding affinity, and concern has been raised about their mitogenic potential in humans. The present review summarizes the main aspects of the IGF system biology and the interactions among IGF-I, insulin, insulin analogs and their receptors.