With a mixture of shock and amazement, I read a story in today’s New York Times called “Am I Young Yet?” It was written by Elizabeth Hayt, who at the age of 48, began injecting herself with human growth hormone (HGH), one of the anti-aging industry’s drugs of choice.
Hayt tried HGH because she thought it might help speed up her recovery from ankle surgery. But she admitted she was also drawn to it because an anti-aging doctor told her “HGH should also help you lose weight, and you’ll love the way it will make your skin look younger.”
In reality, it appeared that HGH turned Hayt’s face into a disaster area. She ended up with 5 moles, 25 enlarged oil glands and 50 angiofibromas–small pocks around her nose.
Many scientists believe that HGH, true to its name, makes things grow–and often not pleasant things. In Selling the Fountain of Youth, I recount the story of Hanneke Hops, a northern California woman who told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003 that daily injections of HGH were making her strong and healthy enough to run marathons, ride horses, and fly planes. Three months later she died from cancer, her liver riddled with tumors. Her son suspected a link to HGH.
It’s difficult to prove scientifically that HGH causes dangerous side effects, or worse, cancer. But there have been plenty of anecdotal reports–such as those of Hayt and Hops–that suggest patients should proceed with extreme caution. At least they should ask themselves: Is the quest for youth worth the risks?