Previous studies have found that estrogen enhances the effect of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) levels on breast cancer cell growth. Participants in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study (SBCS) consumed large amounts of soy that was high in isoflavones, which act as weak estrogens and as anti-estrogens. We assessed whether soy protein intake modified the effect of IGF-I levels on breast cancer risk. The SBCS is a population-based case-control study of breast cancer among women aged 25-64 conducted between 1996 and 1998 in urban Shanghai. In-person interviews were completed with 1,459 incident breast cancer cases ascertained through a population-based cancer registry and 1,556 controls randomly selected from the general population (with respective response rates of 91% and 90%). This analysis is restricted to the 397 cases and 397 matched controls for whom information on IGF-I levels was available. For premenopausal breast cancer, we found nearly significant interactions between soy protein intake and IGF-I levels (P = 0.080) and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) levels (P = 0.057). The direction of the interaction appeared to be negative for IGF-I levels but was positive for IGFBP-3 levels. No interaction was evident between soy protein intake and IGF-I or IGFBP-3 levels among postmenopausal women. Our results suggest that soy protein intake may negatively modulate the effect of IGF-I and may positively modulate the effect of IGFBP-3 levels on premenopausal breast cancer risk. Further studies are needed to confirm our finding and to understand the biological mechanisms of these potential interactions.