Background: Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), in particular IGF-I and IGF-II, strongly stimulate the proliferation of a variety of cancer cells, including those from lung cancer. To examine the possible causal role of IGFs in lung cancer development, we compared plasma levels of IGF-I, IGF-II, and an IGF-binding protein (IGFBP-3) in patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer and in control subjects.
Methods: From an ongoing hospital-based, case-control study, we selected 204 consecutive patients with histologically confirmed, primary lung cancer and 218 control subjects who were matched to the case patients by age, sex, race, and smoking status. IGF-I, IGF-II, and IGFBP-3 plasma levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and then divided into quartiles, based on their distribution in the control subjects. Associations between the IGF variables and lung cancer risk were estimated by use of odds ratios (ORs). Reported P values are two-sided.
Results: IGF and IGFBP-3 levels were positively correlated (all r>.27; all P<.001). High plasma levels of IGF-I were associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (OR = 2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.19-3.56; P = .01), and this association was dose dependent in both univariate and multivariate analyses. Plasma IGFBP-3 showed no association with lung cancer risk unless adjusted for IGF-I level; when both of these variables were analyzed together, high plasma levels of IGFBP-3 were associated with reduced risk of lung cancer (OR = 0.48; 95% CI = 0.25-0.92; P = .03). IGF-II was not associated with lung cancer risk.
Conclusions: Plasma levels of IGF-I are higher and plasma levels of IGFBP-3 are lower in patients with lung cancer than in control subjects. If these findings can be confirmed in prospective studies, measuring levels of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 in blood may prove useful in assessing lung cancer risk.