What is the controversy about human growth hormone?

More than two decades since human growth hormone (HGH) became mass-produced and readily obtainable, it's still not verified to slow or reverse the aging process. And while it's factual that a few studies have demonstrated that HGH fosters lean muscle growth and a decrease of body fat in older individuals, the studies haven't proven a corresponding rise in strength or endurance.

Even though no formal research has been conducted to prove definitively that HGH functions as an anti-aging treatment, you can see informal testimonials everywhere. Optimistic patients-men and women, young and old-all over the United States pay as much as of $15,000 per year for injections of HGH each month. Many of these patients are adamant that the injections bring back their youthful vigor, energy and health, in addition to reducing wrinkles and improving their skin. However, taking HGH for anti-aging purposes is illegal. To obtain a prescription for HGH therapy, you must present results of a blood test indicating that your hormone levels are insufficient, proving your need for this treatment. Numerous doctors prescribe the hormone for anti-aging purposes, in spite of this; they are rarely prosecuted. It's also illegal to self-medicate with HGH without the supervision of a doctor, making most online sales of HGH illegal.

A search on the Internet for "buy HGH" lists more than a quarter-million hits. Yet, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers that there is no dependable evidence to support any claims that HGH can reverse the aging process, assist you with weight loss, or will help you develop bigger muscles. Many of these sellers advertise their HGH in the form of pills, sprays or powders. The fact is the only effective way for your body to process HGH is via injection. The FTC also cautions buyers against any company that promotes products claiming to improve or enhance your body's HGH production.

There may be no evidence that HGH is a fountain of youth, but there is substantial confirmation that HGH can produce some serious side effects. Healthy adults who take HGH could experience any of the following: swelling of the legs or arms, irregular growth of bone, high blood pressure, joint pain, edema, muscular pain, edema, carpel tunnel syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, and enlargement of breast tissue. Some doctors are also concerned overuse of HGH could lead to cancer.

The biggest controversy surrounding use of HGH is whether or not it causes cancer. The subject is still subject to debate.

When HGH is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain or injected as a medication, it is converted to a substance called IGF-1 in the liver. There have been reports that indicate there may be an increased risk of prostate cancer associated with higher IGF-1 levels. In 1998, two published studies claimed to discover an increased incidence of prostate cancer in men who had higher IGF-1 levels in their blood when it was measured years before the onset of the cancer. However, other studies show no difference in IGF-1 levels between normal healthy men and those with prostate cancer when the IGF-1 level was measured at the time of diagnosis and after. In a study of a large group of men taking both testosterone and growth hormone, completed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in 1999, the average PSA (prostate specific antigen) level actually declined over the 6 months of treatment.

Another more recent study points to a higher incidence of breast cancer in pre-menopausal [but not post- menopausal] women who had higher IGF-1 levels one to five years prior to the onset of breast cancer. However, studies like this, which show an association (two variables present simultaneously), do not demonstrate cause and effect.

One interesting example of patients with increased HGH levels are those who suffer from acromegaly. This is a disease in which the pituitary gland overproduces HGH. So basically it is the opposite of HGH deficiency and may be somewhat similar to HGH replacement. Clinical studies have shown that people with acromegaly and greatly elevated HGH levels do not have an increased risk of cancer.

Studies demonstrate in fact that HGH deficient individuals have 50% more cancers than those with normal levels.

It may be 20 years before we know if there is any true cause and effect between higher IGF-1 and increased risk of cancer. I suggest talking to your Age Management Physician about the risks versus benefits before taking HGH or any medication.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.