Association of Circulating IGF-I with Common Non-cancerous Conditions

Pavankumar Kamat


November 15, 2021


  • Circulating insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) was associated with several common conditions (other than cancer), including a positive association with carpal tunnel syndrome and inverse associations with varicose veins and iron deficiency anaemia.

Why this matters

  • Higher IGF-I levels have been associated with an increased risk of several cancers in adults without acromegaly, but there is inconclusive and/or limited data on its association with non-cancer outcomes.

Study design

  • A study included 318,749 middle-aged participants (age, 40-69 years) from the UK Biobank (2006-2010).

  • Serum IGF-I concentration was measured at baseline and re-measured in 12,334 participants after an average of 4.3 years.

  • Associations of circulating IGF-I with the risk of 25 common conditions, other than cancer, were evaluated.

  • Funding: Wellcome Trust, Our Planet Our Health and others.

Key results

  • After correction for multiple testing (P<.002):

    • IGF-I was positively associated with carpal tunnel syndrome (HR per 5 nmoL/L higher concentration, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.08-1.16; P<.001).

    • IGF-I was inversely associated with (HR; 95% CI):

      • varicose veins (0.90; 0.85-0.95; P=.001);

      • cataracts (0.97; 0.95-0.99; P<.001);

      • diabetes (0.92; 0.90-0.95; P<.001); and

      • iron deficiency anaemia (0.90; 0.86-0.93; P<.001).

  • The associations for cataracts and diabetes were closer to null in participants who were diagnosed after ≥5 years of follow-up, indicating that these associations were likely to have been affected by reverse causality.


  • Likelihood of measurement errors when measuring IGF-I at baseline.


Papier K, Knuppel A, Perez-Cornago A, Watts EL, Tong TYN, Schmidt JA, Allen N, Key TJ, Travis RC. Circulating insulin-like growth factor-I and risk of 25 common conditions: outcome-wide analyses in the UK Biobank study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2021 Nov 8 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1007/s10654-021-00811-y. PMID: 34746972  View abstract 

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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