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Study Looks At Link Between Growth Hormones and Osteoporosis

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For women with thinning bones, it's a different option.

"The idea of growth hormone helping osteoporosis is not new," says Dr. Michael Farrell, an internist at Allegheny General Hospital.

A study from Sweden shows women on growth hormone had denser bones, and the ultimate benefit.

"This study looked at fracture risk, which is what you really care about," says Dr. Farrell.

The study involved 80 women, ages 50 to 70. For 18 months, they got daily shots of either placebo, a single unit of growth hormone, or a two and a half unit of growth hormone, and they were followed for ten years. They were then compared to a group of 120 women who did not take growth hormone.

Not only was bone density higher in women in the treated group, if they did have osteoporosis, they had half the fracture rate.

The women with osteoporosis who did not take growth hormone had four times the fracture rate.

Growth hormone is made in a part of the brain called the pituitary gland. It regulates growth in kids, and regulars body fluids and muscle and bone growth. FDA approved uses include growth deficiency and certain genetic conditions. Common unapproved uses include sports enhancement and anti-aging, with unproven effects.

Risks of growth hormone include stroke and breast cancer. There are other medicines used to treat osteoporosis, but they can have side effects too, such as bone and heart problems.

Young postmenopausal women with low cardiovascular risk might be the best candidates.

"People have to be willing to do an injection daily, too," Dr. Farrell points out.

Even if it takes off as an alternative treatment, it's likely specialists will be the ones to prescribe it.

"It's ghastly expensive. The cost of growth hormone per month for people I know who have growth hormone therapy is on the order of thousands of dollars," he adds.

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