Higher IGF-1 Levels Found in Young Patients With Acne

Acne is an infection of the skin.
The association between acne severity in patients of various ages and serum insulin-like growth factor is investigated.

People with acne who are younger than 21 years of age have significantly higher acne scores and serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) than older patients with acne, according to results of a case-control prospective study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

Research has indicated IGF-1 is involved in cytokine release and subsequent inflammation in patients with acne. Growth hormone secretion during childhood and puberty, phases of life frequently associated with acne incidence, are responsible for increases in IGF-1.

To gain a further understanding of serum IGF-1 levels in patients with acne, researchers compared levels of IGF-1 between patients with acne (women, 77.3%) who were 21 years of age or younger (n=19) and those who were older than 21 years of age (n=25) (age range, 13-44 years). The researchers of this single-center study also compared the 2 groups in terms of insulin and glucose levels as well as acne severity.

A control group comprising 44 people without acne were also recruited (age range, 13-44 years), including 18 controls who were 21 years of age or younger and 26 who were older than 21 years of age.

Acne severity, rated using the Global Acne Grading System (GAGS), was mild in 31.8% of patients, moderate in 38.6% of patients, severe in 22.7% of patients, and very severe in 6.8% of patients.

Although the mean global acne score was 24.97±9.61, patients with acne who were younger than 21 years of age had a significantly higher acne score compared with older patients (29.2±8.7 vs 21.8±9.2, respectively; P <.01).

The mean IGF-1 values of the overall acne group and the control group were 174.33±64.9 ng/ml and 181.7±46.7 ng/ml, respectively (P =.26). Patients with acne who were 21 years of age or younger had a significantly higher mean IGF-1 value compared with patients with acne who were older than 21 years of age (200.01±79 ng/ml vs 154.82±44 ng/ml, respectively; P =.045).

Overall, there was no significant association between acne scores and levels of IGF-1 in patients with acne (P =.17).

Patients with acne had a mean insulin value of 11.8±6.7 IU/mL and a mean glucose value of 85.6±8.0 mg/dL. The control group had a mean insulin value of 9.7±3.0 IU/mL and a mean glucose value of 87.7±6.5 mg/dL. No significant difference was found between patients with acne and control participants in terms of insulin (P =.07) or glucose (P =.18) values.

Limitations of this study included its small sample size and single-center design. The investigators also noted the study could have provided more clinically relevant information if it had assessed insulin resistance coupled with glycemic index measurements of patients.

The researchers concluded that with “future treatments, new drugs that will regulate the release of IGF-1 may be effective in the acne treatment in puberty.”


Akpinar Kara Y. Evaluation of serum insulin-like growth factor-1, insulin, glucose levels in patients with adolescent and post-adolescent acne. J Cosmet Dermatol. Published online July 1, 2021. doi:10.1111/jocd.14327