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Charles Runels, MD  


Growth Hormone Therapy:  Why? and Why not?

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1.  First, let me be plain.  I do not treat aging.  Most of my patients look and feel younger when I treat the diseases that bring them to me.  But, in this country, for the physician to try and prevent the overall aging process literally will risk a loss of his/her license or worse.  I have defended the idea of thinking about what prompts the ill effects of aging and treating them before they turn into disease.  A few hundred years ago, there was the idea among some priests that to treat disease was to interfere with GOD's will and if someone got sick that process should not be stopped.  There is no end point with research concerning aging (as in looking for less numbers of heart attacks with blood pressure medication) so research is difficult.  But, even more importantly, to treat aging directly is considered quackery and grounds for prosecution in this country.  I do not do it. 

When I prescribe growth hormone, it is only for those with growth hormone deficiency as evidenced by IGF-1 and by symptoms associated with this known disease.  Those symptoms and signs include dementia, elevated cholesterol, depression, increased atherosclerosis, increased risk of diabetes with insulin resistance as and early sign, fatigue, and fibromyalgia (all supported by medical literature).  Considering it's relationship to circulation and lipids and depression and the relationship of all of those to erection, GH seems to be a logical help for erectile dysfunction as well if those problems are also present.

2. Now, let's talk straight out about the issue that worries many people (and the most serious worry):  does growth hormone cause cancer? 

Here's a quote from Endocrinology (Fifth Edition) by DeGroot and Jameson:  "No evidence indicates that GH or IGF-1 induces tumor formation." On the contrary, "the best study to date, involving over 1,000 acromegalic patients [growth hormone levels elevated to more than what is normal], found overall cancer incidence rates to be lower than those in the general population."

Let me expand upon what is being said here.  In the conservative, accepted text book of endocrinology in this country, the teaching is that having growth hormone levels higher than normal seems to LOWER the chances of getting cancer and there is NO EVIDENCE THAT GH CAUSES CANCER. 

Want more evidence?  We've seen that having a level too high seems to protect against cancer.  What if levels were too low?  Would this lead to an increased incidence of cancer?  Here's a study that shows exactly that.

What if someone has previously suffered with cancer?  Would giving GH to that person increase the risk of a recurrence of the cancer?  Here's a quote from  The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 83, No. 2 382-395:

“Data from long term studies in children with both solid tumors and hematological malignancies suggest that there is no increased risk of recurrence associated with GH therapy.”       

The importance of GH throughout adult life is now unequivocally accepted. GH deficiency is recognized to result in alterations in body composition, physical performance, psychological well-being, and substrate metabolism. Many of these alterations can be improved or corrected with GH replacement. It is likely that GH replacement will in the near future become as routine as steroid, thyroid hormone, and sex hormone replacement in management of the hypopituitary adult. The major restriction to the widespread use of GH is cost. It is expected that once the pharmaceutical industry has recovered its developmental expenditure, the cost of GH will decrease.”

Translation:  GH replacement does not increase the rate of cancer even in children who have had cancer, and the conservative journal of endocrinology states that when the costs goes down, GH replacement will likely be as common as thyroid replacement.

Here's the tricky part:  if someone had an active cancer, there may be a chance of activating that cancer if the person were given GH.  I think it's analogous to fiber in divertiulitis--fiber helps prevent you from getting it but could make it worse if you have it.

Here's information about using HGH to treat diabetes type 2.

Here's more on checking your own growth hormone levels.The following lists links to medical research papers...

1.  Growth hormone release decreased in middle-aged adults who exercise compared with younger adults who exercise.

2.  Easy to read summary of risks and benefits of growth hormone.

3.  Why the current research on growth hormone should be done and evidence of benefit as well as potential risks (from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism)

4.  Review of potential but not yet proven uses of growth hormone from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism).  Includes

nice summary of why it might be helpful in "well" adults and in diabetics.

5.  Summary of an article concerning "somatopause" ( the idea that like menopause for women with low estrogen levels, many adults have symptoms from low growth hormone levels).

6.  Why some doctors oppose treating aging.

Important information about the most conservative way of testing for growth hormone deficiency and the problems and information to be had from that test.


Peace & Health,


Charles Runels, MD






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