Unlabeled milk from cows treated with biosynthetic growth hormones: a case of regulatory abdication

Int J Health Serv. 1996;26(1):173-85. doi: 10.2190/EDK8-T5RC-LUMR-B2H7.


Levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are substantially elevated and more bioactive in the milk of cows hyperstimulated with the biosynthetic bovine growth hormones rBGH, and are further increased by pasteurization. IGF-1 is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, as evidenced by marked growth-promoting effects even in short-term tests in mature rats, and absorption is likely to be still higher in infants. Converging lines of evidence incriminate IGF-1 in rBGH milk as a potential risk factor for both breast and gastrointestinal cancers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Food Labeling* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Growth Hormone / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / adverse effects*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis*
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone