Use of the genetically engineered human growth hormone (HGH) for anti-aging medication has become a major growth industry. Suppliers of HGH, including those offering mail order prescriptions, are proliferating on websites and the Internet. The Chicago-based seven-year-old American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, with over 8000 members, promotes injectable HGH in programs claiming to stop or even reverse aging, including decreasing body fat, and increasing muscle mass and bone density. However, practitioners of this burgeoning "health" industry are either ignorant of or suppress well-documented information on the grave cancer risks of HGH medication.
HGH induces growth promoting and other effects by stimulating the liver to increase production of the natural Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) whose blood levels normally decline with advancing age. However, there are numerous publications in prestigious peer reviewed scientific journals showing that elevated IGF-1 levels are strongly associated with major excess risks of colon, prostate, and breast cancers; even minor elevations are associated with up to 7-fold increased risks of breast cancer, risks almost as high as those in women carrying genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) with the strongest hereditary predisposition. Additionally, IGF-1 inhibits the programmed self-destruction (apoptosis) of cancer cells, thus stimulating the growth and invasiveness of small, undiagnosed cancers, besides increasing the resistance of cancers to chemotherapy. For these reasons, anti-aging HGH medication, compounded by failure to explicitly disclose its grave risks, constitutes medical malpractice.
There are also growing concerns on possible risks from the use of HGH nutritional supplements, including oral sprays. It should, however, be recognized that HGH absorption from the mouth and gut is unlikely to be significant, in striking contrast to complete absorption from injectable medication. Nevertheless, nutritional HGH supplements should be phased out until it can be shown that they do not elevate blood IGF-1 levels.
HGH medication should only be used by qualified endocrinologists for highly restricted medical disorders, such as dwarfism due to pituitary gland deficiency, as approved by the FDA in 1985; anti-aging medication has never received such approval.
Contact: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor
of Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois, School of Public
Health, Chicago, Illinois, and Chairman, the Cancer Prevention Coalition