Hanneke Hops wasn't afraid of dying. What concerned her was growing old and not being able to run marathons, ride horses, or fly planes. So the 56-year-old Hayward, California, woman turned to Alan Mintz, M.D. -- a radiologist who founded the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Las Vegas, which specializes in "age management medicine."
She was prescribed recombinant human growth hormone (HGH), a synthetic version of a pituitary hormone hawked as a miraculous fountain of youth. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that taking HGH poses serious health risks, Hops -- unaware there was any harm -- began injecting it into her thigh six times a week.
She never did grow old. Six months later, in 2004, she was dead, her liver full of malignant tumors. While it is impossible to prove that HGH therapy contributed to Hops's death, the use of HGH has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. (Mintz said at the time of Hops's death that Hops would not have been treated if he knew she had cancer.)
Today, thousands of physicians are catering to the 78 million baby boomers who are hoping to feel younger, longer -- and willing to pay for the privilege. The anti-aging industry is expected to gross more than $291 billion worldwide by 2015.