Insulin-Like Growth Factors and How They Affect Cancer

Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) play an important role in the manifestation of certain types of cancer. Oasis of Hope Hospital takes IGFs into consideration when planning a treatment. In particular, Oasis of Hope Hospital tries to reduce IGF-1 for breast, colon, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

IGFs serve as a natural and important part of the body’s regulatory system and play a role in the proper growth of children. They are named insulin-like growth factors because they have protein sequences that are very similar to the insulin molecule. The two main types of insulin-like growth factor are IGF-1 and IGF-2. As their names suggest, IGFs affect growth.

IGF-2 is thought to work primarily in the womb and is essential for the proper development of the fetus. Later in life, IGF-2 also plays a key role in the development and function of certain organs, particularly the brain and liver.

When present in children, IGF-1 leads the child to reach maximum growth potential. Children who lack the growth hormone may not develop fully, may experience a reduced hearing ability, and tend to be shorter. Conversely, children with higher than average IGF-1 levels tend to develop higher IQs.

In adults, IGF-1 also plays a role, particularly in the aging process. When the growth factor operates properly, it binds with neurons to prolong their life and also helps to prevent muscle atrophy. It also affects the cartilage and bones in a positive way.

However, like all systems in the body, IGF-1 needs to be regulated which, in a healthy individual, is accomplished by IGF-binding proteins. They prevent IGF-1 from acting too aggressively.

Research has shown that elevated IGF-1 levels can lead to certain types of cancer, as described above. This is because an imbalance is caused between the amount of IGF-1 in the system and the binding proteins available to neutralize the growth factor.

In particular, IGF-1 levels in the body can be affected by diet, as the liver increases its production of the hormone in response to diets that emphasize large quantities of animal protein. Therefore, in societies that rely heavily on such diets, like America, cancer influenced by IGF-1 is more prevalent.

Although not all IGF-1 cancers can be treated by reducing the level of the hormone in the body, it is prudent to adopt a diet that lowers the amount of the hormone created by the liver anyway in order to decrease the odds of new cancer induction.