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Paul C Marker, Christopher J Unterberger, and Steven M Swanson

Interest in investigating the role of the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) axis in the initiation and progression of experimentally induced carcinomas has arisen due to several observations in the human population. First, subjects with Laron syndrome who lack GH signaling have significantly lower rates of cancer than people who have normal GH signaling. Second, epidemiologic studies have found strong associations between elevated circulating IGF-1 and the incidence of several common cancers. Third, women who bear children early in life have a dramatically reduced risk of developing breast cancer, which may be due to differences in hormone levels including GH. These observations have motivated multiple studies that have experimentally altered activity of the GH/IGF-1 axis in the context of experimental carcinoma models in mice and rats. Most of these studies have utilized carcinoma models for four organ systems that are also frequent sites of carcinomas in humans: the mammary gland, prostate gland, liver, and colon. This review focuses on these studies and describes some of the most common genetic models used to alter the activity of the GH/IGF-1 axis in experimentally induced carcinomas. A recurring theme that emerges from these studies is that manipulations that reduce the activity of GH or mediators of GH action also inhibit carcinogenesis in multiple model systems.