Treatment with growth hormone not found to increase risk of brain tumors

Long-Term Follow-Up Study research has found that growth hormone treatment does not increase a survivor’s risk of developing a brain tumor.

Published: 6/1/14

Boy with growth chart

Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. In addition to promoting growth, it affects how the body uses fat, makes muscle, and strengthens bones. And it influences overall physical and emotional health throughout life. 

Before puberty growth hormone is needed to help people grow to their full height potential. Unfortunately, treatment with brain radiation for a childhood cancer can reduce the pituitary gland’s ability to make this important hormone.  

Since 1985, growth hormone deficiency has been treated by daily injections of man-made growth hormone.  Many studies have shown a benefit of growth hormone therapy in promoting growth of children who cannot make the hormone naturally.

But questions remain about the safety of this therapy. In particular, since the hormone stimulates growth, there is a concern that it would cause tumor growth as well, possibly contributing to recurrence of childhood cancer or the development of new, second cancers

We conducted a study to learn whether growth hormone therapy is linked specifically to an increased risk of secondary brain tumors.  To study this question we looked at medical records and questionnaire responses of 338 LTFU participants who reported that they had received growth hormone treatment.  And we’re very happy to report our finding:

Our research shows that treatment with growth hormone does not increase survivors’ risk of developing a brain tumor. While treatment with brain radiation is linked to increased risk of brain tumors, especially at higher radiation doses, growth hormone therapy does not add anything to this risk.

This is great news for survivors. It adds to our confidence that growth hormone therapy is safe for survivors who need it and makes it possible for survivors and their doctors to make a decision about growth hormone replacement without having to worry about whether the therapy increases brain tumor risk.


Growth hormone treatment and risk of second neoplasms in the childhood cancer survivor. Ergun-Longmire B, Mertens AC, Mitby P, Qin J, Heller G, Shi W, Yasui Y, Robison LL, Sklar CA.  J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Sep;91(9):3494-8.

Growth hormone exposure as a risk factor for the development of subsequent neoplasms of the central nervous system: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Patterson BC, Chen Y, Sklar CA, Neglia J, Yasui Y, Mertens A, Armstrong GT, Meadows A, Stovall M, Robison LL, Meacham LR. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jun;99(6):2030-7.