Perturbations of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis, including the autocrine production of IGFs, IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs) and IGFBP proteases such as prostate specific antigen (PSA), and cathepsin D have been identified in prostate, lung and breast cancer cells and tissues. Serum IGFBP-3 levels have been found to be negatively correlated to the risk of cancer. Interestingly, IGFBP-3 is a potent inhibitor of IGF action and also mediates apoptosis via an IGF-independent mechanism. Recent case-control studies have found an approximately 10% increase in the serum levels of IGF-I in patients with prostate, breast and lung cancers, which are among the most frequently diagnosed cancers. While the studies indicate an association between serum IGF-I levels and cancer risk, causality has not been established. Thus, serum IGF-I level may actually be a confounding variable, serving as a marker for autocrine tissue IGF-I production. Growth hormone (GH) therapy raises both IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels in serum. However, the role of GH in controlling prostate, breast and lung growth and carcinogenesis remains unclear from animal studies. Increased GH levels as seen in acromegaly have been associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia but not with prostate, breast or lung cancers, although colon cancer mortality may be increased. Should serum IGF-I levels be proven to play a causal role in the pathogenesis of cancer, interpreting the risk associated with therapies such as GH replacement must take into account both the duration of exposure and the risk magnitude associated with the degree of serum IGF-I elevation. Since GH-deficient patients often have a subnormal IGF-I serum level, which normalizes on therapy, their cancer risk on GH therapy probably does not increase substantially above that of the normal population. Until further research in the area dictates otherwise, ongoing surveillance and routine monitoring of IGF-I levels in GH recipients should become standard of care.