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A study of almost 400,000 British participants has identified a new link between raised levels of the growth factor IGF-1 and increased thyroid cancer risk and has confirmed associations with breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.

Breast cancer core biopsy

This could lead to new preventative strategies, including diet and lifestyle interventions.

IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) helps to support normal cell growth and development, processes which can lead to cancer if they become dysregulated. This new study, published today in Cancer Research, is the largest and most comprehensive investigation into IGF-1 and cancer risk to date. It was carried out as a collaboration between the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (Lyon, France). The researchers analysed the serum IGF-1 levels in almost 400,000 blood samples held in the open-access UK Biobank resource, collected between 2006-2010.

Using data records from the NHS up until 2016, the researchers could identify which of the sample donors went on to develop one of 30 different types of malignant cancers, within an average period of seven years. In total, 23,412 (5.9%) of the participants developed a malignant cancer. To test for an association between raised IGF-1 levels and cancer risk, the researchers adjusted the statistical analyses to correct for a range of other characteristics including age, sex, geographical region, ethnicity, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and (for women) HRT use.

The full story is available on the Nuffield Department of Population Health website

The story is also featured on the University of Oxford website