Does HGH And Cancer Have A Causal Relationship

According to a study from London, GH therapy can increase the incidence and mortality risks of cancers, consistently, colorectal cancer.

However, contrary to a study from Brazil, HGH therapy is a safe way to treat patients with GH deficiency, at the same time, currently battling cancer.

So, how is recombinant human GH associated with cancers?

Read on to learn more about the HGH and cancer relationship.

Growth Hormone: An Overview

Human growth hormone (HGH) is one of the hormones naturally produced in the body.

It is secreted by the pituitary gland to promote healthy bone and muscle growth. 

Generally, this HGH is used to treat GH deficiency. When you have this condition, your height may be shorter than usual.

In adults, having low growth hormone levels can affect overall health as it can promote fatigue and reduced libido.

Recombinant Human Growth Hormone

Initially, HGH therapies were named p-HGH. This compound was extracted from the human pituitary.

But because of the outbreak of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease consequent on prion infection from these pituitaries, this treatment was stopped.

After the halt of p-HGH therapy, r-HGH was discovered and this is the form of GH being used today to provide GH treatment and related health conditions. 

Patients undergoing GH treatment may use vial-and-injection or HGH pens to increase their HGH levels.

However, many people, especially parents, worry about the side effects of using HGH treatment, such as the increased risk of cancer.

Some studies report that HGH treatment is even safe to be used in cancer treatment while other studies report that it can induce the growth of tumors. 

The Casual Relationship of HGH and Cancer

HGH prescription drug

To understand their relationship, we have to discuss first how HGH works and how it affects the body.

Generally, when your HGH receptors are activated, it will stimulate the secretion and action of IGF-1.

This simply means that GH raises serum concentrations of IGF-1.

The latter is an important GH  that promotes the effect of the pituitary GH protein.

This means that the cancer side effects you can get are not from HGH itself, but from the IGF-1 instead.

According to a study from the European Journal of Endocrinology, there is no evidence regarding the increased risk of cancer mortality in GH-treated patients with previous cancer.

However, this does not mean this low chance of cancer mortality risk effect can be applied to all. Doctors will still have to closely monitor and select patients cautiously.

Cancer and Insulin-Like Growth Factor

According to a study from the United Kingdom, IGF-1 promotes cancer by inhibiting apoptosis and stimulating cell proliferation. Some of these cancers include the following:

  • Bone and bladder cancers
  • Prostate cancers
  • Breast cancers
  • Colorectal cancer or colon cancer

When IGF-1 is stimulated, it will inhibit cell death and stimulate cell reproduction.

Unfortunately, this reproduction can become uncontrolled.

Eventually, higher GH concentrations found raised risks of these cancers, most especially subsequent breast cancer, bladder cancer, and bone cancer.

In another study from the USA, it was also found that IGF-1 can cause raised risks of obesity-related types of cancers. 

Although hormone therapies can support weight control, some growth hormone receptors and cells cannot be regulated well, causing an increased risk of cancer.

Furthermore, based on a study from the Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, the risk of cancer depends on the health condition of the patients and several cancer sites.

For example, there was no clear raised risk in patients with growth failure without other major disease.

To examine cancer risks, it was reported in this study that cancer incidence is the same for patients treated with GH and untreated patients who will undergo the same treatment.

In this study, GH patients treated with HGH therapy, specifically the low-risk ones or those with isolated growth failure, did not increase their cancer risks. 

However, Hodgkin lymphoma, bone, and bladder cancers incidence significantly raised in GH-treated patients without previous cancer as the GH dose increased.

According to a study from China, IGF-1 can stimulate tumorigenesis or the initial phase of tumor development.

Additionally, abnormal signaling of a growth hormone receptor can induce primary malignancies such as malignant brain tumors.

In this study, the second primary malignancy risk, specifically leukemia, was also stated.

Additionally, there is a clear raised risk of these malignancies after childhood cancer.

Based on another study from the United Kingdom, endogenously raised GH concentrations can also raise cancer risk, specifically lung cancer. 

This means that nutritional changes and lifestyle can increase cancer mortality risk.

Some of these include drinking alcohol, smoking, and consuming unhealthy fats.

As said, cancer sites also increase cancer risk. In one study from Florida, skin cancer patients getting HGH injections experienced an increase in cancer growth.

Other Side Effects of HGH


Aside from the possibility of cancer incidence, HGH offers some side effects. Some of these will be discussed in this section.

1) Carpal tunnel syndrome

Taking HGH affects your median nerve and this can induce carpal tunnel syndrome.

Some of the side effects of this syndrome include wrist pain, weakness, and numbness.

2) Diabetes

Aside from cancer expectations, diabetes can also occur from using HGH. Generally, HGH increases your insulin concentration.

Eventually, when your body cannot tolerate these levels, insulin resistance can occur.

Take note that having diabetes can increase cancer risk for previous cancer patients.

So, if you have previous cancer and wish to take HGH, better to seek medical consultation for a proper evaluation of your health.

3) Joint pain, muscle pain, and inflammation

Patients using HGH report that they have experienced joint and muscle pain.

According to a study from Ohio, these joint and muscle pains are associated with high levels of insulin.

Final Thoughts

HGH therapies are thought to be safe for cancer treatment.

However, cancer research institutes report that GH-treated patients may experience cancer risk.

Aside from cancer, there are also other side effects of using HGH.

Although not all patients can experience these side effects, including cancer, it is highly advised to determine the GH levels of patients to avoid them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the common cancer side effects of HGH?

Some of the side effects of HGH associated with cancer include melanoma, bladder cancer, bone cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. Aside from HGH, your lifestyle choices such as diet can also increase their risk.

Can HGH cause brain tumors?

Yes, HGH is also associated with brain tumors – malignant and benign. HGH can stimulate the initial phase of the development of tumors which is why not all patients can use this hormone therapy. Proper doses and evaluation are needed to avoid these side effects.

What are the factors causing HGH-related cancers?

The patient's health condition, the concentration of HGH, and cancer history are some of the factors that cause HGH-related cancers. The severity of the effects of HGH also depends on these factors. Although HGH is not directly related to cancer, its effect on IGF-1 makes these health diseases possible.