OBJECTIVE: IGFs and their binding proteins (IGFBPs) are produced both systemically and locally by cells of the cardiovascular system. As growth promoters, they may play a role in atherosclerosis. DESIGN: Case-control, cross-sectional. PATIENTS: A total of 95 nondiabetic male patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) and 92 probands from the Prospective Cardiovascular Munster (PROCAM) who were below the age of 60 years and matched by age, body mass index (BMI) and smoking habits. MEASUREMENTS: We analysed the strength and independence of associations of angiographically assessed presence of CHD with BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoprotein(a), apolipoproteins A-I and B, total and free IGF-I, IGF-II, IGFBP-1, IGFBP-3, IGFBP-5, acid-labile subunit (ALS), insulin, C-peptide, testosterone, DHEAS and sex hormone binding globulin. RESULTS: Using multivariate statistical analysis, the presence of CHD had significant positive associations with total IGF-I, IGFBP-5, ALS and IGFBP-3. These associations were independent of each other as well as of traditional risk factors, insulin and sex hormones. CONCLUSION: These observations may indicate a pathogenetic role of the GH/IGF axis in coronary atherosclerosis.