Plasma insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) concentrations are regulated by genetic factors, nutrient intake, growth hormone (GH) and other hormones such as T4, cortisol and sex steroids. The accuracy of IGF-I measurement in diagnosing GH deficiency or excess depends, in part, on the relative contributions of each of these variables. Since their respective influence may vary widely between individuals, the establishment of well-defined normal ranges is necessary, which requires adequate numbers of normal individuals, in order for IGF-I measurements to have maximum utility. In states of GH deficiency, the influence of these non-GH-related factors predominates. Although IGF-I levels have utility as a screening test in children and young adults, they cannot be used as a stand-alone test for the diagnosis of GH deficiency. By contrast, in acromegaly, GH is the predominant determinant of IGF-I levels and, therefore, measurement of IGF-I is a very useful diagnostic test. In acromegaly, IGF-I levels are useful for assessing the relative degree of GH excess, because changes in IGF-I correlate with changes in symptoms and soft-tissue growth. IGF-I is also very useful in monitoring the symptomatic response to therapy.