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Expert Q&A

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Would human growth hormone help cancer patients?

Asked by Mike Wiggins, Downs, Illinois

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Do you believe it would help cancer patients to have lots of human growth hormone, which seems to be so beneficial for athletes?

Expert Bio Picture

Conditions Expert Dr. Otis Brawley Chief Medical Officer,
American Cancer Society

Expert answer

Dear Mike:

Thanks for your question. Recent data suggest that the increased levels of growth factors such as insulin-like growth hormones (or insulin) and erythropoietin, which is also in the family of growth factor and stimulates red blood cell growth, both increase growth of already-present cancers. Some of the newer cancer-fighting drugs actually work by inhibiting certain growth factors.

I know of and can find no data specifically on human growth hormone and cancer, but my assessment of the known data on other growth factors makes me worry that human growth factor would not help cancer patients and may actually be harmful.

Increased HGF leads to increased height and growth of certain bones. Dwarves have a deficiency of HGF and are treated with HGF to attain normal height. People with increased HGF secretion have abnormal growth of their jaw, hands and feet. Injections are thought to improve athletic performance by increasing lean muscle mass and are thought to decrease aging.

In high dose, it might be a promoter or stimulator of tumor growth.

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