Cancer risk is determined by a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition. Recent evidence suggests that dietary and related factors such as physical activity and body size may influence cancer risk through their effects on the serum concentration of IGF-I and its binding proteins. The growth hormone (GH)/IGF-I axis is involved in both human development as well as the maintenance of normal function and homeostasis in most cells of the body. In addition to their classical role as endocrine hormones, its members regulate a wide range of biological functions such as cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis through paracrine and autocrine mechanisms. During cancer development this complex network regulating tissue homeostasis breaks down, with inappropriate expression of the GH/IGF-I axis making an important contribution. The increased understanding of the molecular mechanisms and signalling pathways regulated by the GH/IGF-I axis has started to provide significant insights into the aetiology, prevention and therapy for a number of common cancers.
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