The presence of IGF-I receptors was demonstrated in normal and neoplastic tissues of human thyroid. Binding of [125I]IGF-I to thyroid membranes was dependent on time and temperature of incubation, and maximal binding was achieved at 4°C and 18 h of incubation. [125I] IGF-I binding was dose-dependently displaced by unlabelled IGF-I; half-maximal inhibition occurred at concentrations of 10–20 μg/l. IGF-II and insulin had relative potencies of 5 and 1% compared with IGF-I. Scatchard analysis of binding data revealed a single class of IGF-I receptors with high affinity (Ka: 1.2–8.6 × 109 1/mol) in normal thyroid tissues. Affinity cross-linking and autoradiography demonstrated the type I IGF receptors. Specific binding of [125I] IGF-I in thyroid cancer tissues (9.69 ± 2.07% per 200 μg protein; mean ± sem, N = 8) was significantly (p <0.05) higher than that in the surrounding normal tissues (3.03 ± 0.35%, N = 8). In contrast, there was no difference in the binding between adenoma tissues (4.19 ± 0.53%, N = 5) and the adjacent normal tissues (2.94 ± 0.24%, N = 5). The higher IGF-I binding in cancer tissues was due to an increase in the binding capacity without any change in the affinity. The presence of IGF-I receptors suggests a possible role of IGF-I and its receptors in the growth of thyroid cancer cells.