Cancer Causes & Control

, 20:1985 | Cite as

Cancer risk factors associated with insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGF-binding protein-3 levels in healthy women: effect modification by menopausal status

  • Benjamin B. E. Barnes
  • Jenny Chang-Claude
  • Dieter Flesch-Janys
  • Ralf Kinscherf
  • Martina Schmidt
  • Tracy Slanger
  • Gabriel Bonaterra
  • Karen Steindorf
Original paper


Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) appear to influence breast cancer risk and are hypothesized to mediate the effects of several cancer risk factors that depend on menopausal status. We investigated associations among cancer risk factors and plasma IGF-I and IGFBP-3 in 882 healthy control women (426 premenopausal, 456 postmenopausal) from two population-based breast cancer case–control studies. Interactions with menopausal status were statistically tested. We observed associations with non-modifiable (age, benign breast disease) and modifiable factors [body mass index (BMI), physical activity, smoking habits, alcohol consumption]. Furthermore, we demonstrated statistical interactions with menopausal status. Premenopausal IGFBP-3 levels increased and postmenopausal levels decreased with age (p-interaction = 0.001). Overweight postmenopausal women had higher IGF-I (p = 0.049) and IGFBP-3 (p = 0.005) levels than women with lower BMI. Postmenopausal IGF-I levels were positively associated with physical activity (p-trend = 0.012, p-interaction = 0.050). Postmenopausal current smokers had lower IGF-I (p = 0.014) and IGFBP-3 levels (p = 0.011). Increasing alcohol consumption was associated with lower premenopausal IGF-I (p-trend = 0.002, p-interaction = 0.004) and higher postmenopausal IGFBP-3 levels (p = 0.019). Benign breast disease was associated with higher premenopausal (p = 0.044) and postmenopausal (p = 0.002) IGF-I levels. IGF-I and/or IGFBP-3 potentially mediate changes in breast cancer risk associated with BMI, benign breast disease, and perhaps alcohol consumption. Other observed associations suggest that neither IGF-I nor IGFBP-3 alone acts as mediator. Consideration of menopausal status may help disentangle carcinogenic pathways involving IGF proteins.


Insulin-like growth factor I Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 Menopause Breast cancer Risk factors 



Benjamin Barnes was supported by a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Research Grant (A/05/14276). IGF-I and IGFBP-3 measurement kits were funded through the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Graduiertenkolleg 793: Epidemiology of communicable and chronic, non-communicable diseases and their interrelationships. The MARIE study was funded by the Deutsche Krebshilfe e. V., grant number 70-2892-BR I, the Hamburg Cancer Society, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the BMBF Germany grant 01KH0402.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin B. E. Barnes
    • 1
  • Jenny Chang-Claude
    • 2
  • Dieter Flesch-Janys
    • 3
  • Ralf Kinscherf
    • 4
  • Martina Schmidt
    • 1
  • Tracy Slanger
    • 2
  • Gabriel Bonaterra
    • 4
  • Karen Steindorf
    • 1
  1. 1.Unit of Environmental EpidemiologyGerman Cancer Research CenterHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Division of Cancer EpidemiologyGerman Cancer Research CenterHeidelbergGermany
  3. 3.Department of Medical Biometrics and EpidemiologyUniversity Clinic Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany
  4. 4.Section Macroscopic AnatomyCentre for Biomedicine and Medical Technology Mannheim (CBTM)MannheimGermany

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