In vitro studies have shown that insulin-like growth factor (IGF) is a mitogen for breast cancer cells. However, the associations of plasma IGF-I with tumor histopathology in high-risk groups need further investigation. We hypothesize that plasma IGF-I and serum IGFBP3 concentrations in breast cancer patients may provide useful information on the progression of their disease, and determine the probability of recurrence and survival. We have carried out a retrospective study on 130 minority breast cancer patients. Plasma IGF-I and serum IGFBP3 were correlated with tumor histopathology, menopausal status, treatment modality, recurrence rates, and probability of survival. Plasma IGF-I and serum IGFBP3 were measured by radioimmunoassay. Our studies show that breast cancer patients have elevated plasma IGF-I and serum IGFBP3 levels. In addition we observed the following: IGF-I did not correlate with age and nodal stage. IGF-I and IGFBP3 increased with tumor size (T4). IGF-I did not correlate with estrogen receptor status, but did increase in progesterone-receptor-positive patients. IGF-I levels were higher in premenopausal patients and in women with cancer recurrence. Tamoxifen reduced IGF-I levels significantly and reduced the risk of recurrence. The survival probability was greater in patients with plasma IGF-I levels <120 ng/ml. In conclusion, lowering of plasma IGF-I may offer the following benefits: (a) reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in high-risk groups; (b) slow the progression of breast cancer in patients at early stages of cancer; (c) lower the risk of recurrence, and (d) increase the probability of survival.