Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Can our hormones put us at risk of cancer?

In my previous blog post I spoke generally about doping in sport and the types of drugs that are often found to be used. In the next two blog post I will look in depth at one of the most common drugs in sport, Human Growth Hormone.

Human Growth Hormone (hGH), everyone’s heard about it but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know much about it. In fact it is a protein naturally occurring in all of our bodies. It is made up of over 200 amino acids and is produced by the somatotropic cells in the pituitary gland. What are somatotropic cells you might wonder, well they are simply cells that take up 20 percent of the anterior pituitary cells and are responsible for the production of our growth hormone. This hormone is absolutely crucial for the majority of growth in our bodies and it targets cells on the surface of bones, muscles and cartilage. There are health problems associated with both excess hGH and hGH deficiency, the fact that our body is effected by abnormal levels of this hormones just validates its importance.

For a long time the only source of hGH was human cadavers. However as technology has advanced recomstructure of growth hormone 1binant human growth hormone has been made through genetic engineering as a treatment for patients with hGH deficiency. Soon after it went on the market athletes began to use it as it became common knowledge that it could aid performance. The reason suspected by experts for its misuse in sport is because of it anabolic properties which means it should increase muscle mass and power.

Its ability to enhance physical performance is still unproven however this did not stop it from being forbidden in sport since the early 1990s.

Impacts of hGH:

  • It has been scientifically proven it reduces the amount of body fat
  • It’s believed to increase endurance in athletes
  • Researchers are still undecided as to whether it impacts the size of muscles
  • It’s believed that hGH can build up connective tissues within muscles. If this does occur it means that athletes may be more resistant to injury and repair may occur faster (4)

Its intentional misuse has continued to increase over the years. As it is continuously being used more, scientists have begun to spend more time looking at its effects on the body in doses exceeding what our body should naturally produce. It is believed that having higher levels of hGH can ‘contribute to heightened risk of cancer and earlier death’ (3).


Saugy, M. (2006). Human growth hormone doping in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(Supplement 1), pp.i35-i39.

Science, L. and Nature, H. (2010). Does Human Growth Hormone Really Help Athletes?. [online] Live Science. Available at:

Wang, S. (2016). Scientists Warn of Risks From Growth Hormone. [online] WSJ. Available at:

Wikipedia. (2016). Growth hormone in sports. [online] Available at:

World Anti-Doping Agency. (2014). Human growth hormone (hGH) Testing. [online] Available at:

World Anti-Doping Agency. (2015). Speech by WADA Director General, David Howman, Challenges to the Integrity of Sport, Melbourne (October 15, 2015). [online] Available at:



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This entry was posted on May 9, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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