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Associated Press
A look at human growth hormone's uses and risks

March 19, 2006
CHICAGO - Human growth hormone is being studied by researchers but remains unproven as a youth elixir.

TIME TO GROW: The pituitary gland produces HGH, which helps children grow and is important for maintenance of tissues and organs.

HORMONE SHOTS: Pharmaceutical HGH has legitimate purposes such as treating wasting syndrome in AIDS patients and more questionable ones such as increasing muscle mass in athletes.

BIG BUSINESS: Prescription sales totaled $622 million in 2004, mostly via mail orders. Cost for an individual can be $500 a month, depending on dose.

INJECTABLE: HGH is injected into the abdomen or thigh.

SIDE EFFECTS: Diabetes, raised cholesterol levels, heightened blood pressure, joint problems, swelling and carpal tunnel syndrome have been linked to HGH in studies.

CLAIMS: Researchers find that HGH increases muscle mass and decreases body fat. Some doctors and patients say it increases energy, libido and makes people feel younger.