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August 29, 2011

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A look at some of the major sectors in the anti-aging industry

HORMONE replacement therapy

Numerous companies and clinics promote hormone replacement drugs, including testosterone for men and custom-mixed "bioidentical" hormones for women, as a way to slow the aging process.

Many consumers have seen ads featuring muscle-bound Dr Jeffry Life, now 72. He used testosterone and human growth hormone in his own bodybuilding regimen and recommends hormone therapy for some patients at his age-management practice in Las Vegas.

The FDA has approved hormone replacement drugs for specific purposes linked to diseases and deficiencies, but not to fight aging.

"Finding a 'fountain of youth' is a captivating story," says the National Institute on Aging. "The truth is that, to date, no research has shown that hormone replacement drugs add years to life or prevent age-related frailty."

Some proponents say over-the-counter DHEA supplements can improve energy and strength, boost immunity and decrease fat. The institute says there's no conclusive scientific evidence of such benefits.

Skin care

One of the industry's booming sectors is anti-aging skin care, featuring wrinkle creams and facial serums. By some estimates, the US market for cosmeceutical products - cosmetics with medicine-based ingredients - is approaching US$20 billion a year.

The FDA, which oversees cosmetic safety and labeling, doesn't require manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of cosmetic products before they go on sale, and many ads make claims which critics say are exaggerated or unverifiable. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends consulting a dermatologist on what skin care products have been proved safe and effective in human studies.

Consumer Reports has ventured into anti-aging, using high-tech optical devices and other scientific methods to assess the products.

Last year, the magazine tested nine face serums, available at drug stores for prices ranging from US$20 to US$65 and all claiming to reduce wrinkles.

"After six weeks of use, the effectiveness of even the best products was limited and varied from subject to subject," according to the review. "When we did see wrinkle reductions, they were at best slight, and they fell short of miracles manufacturers seemed to imply on product labels."

Earlier, the magazine tested wrinkle creams.

"Even the best performers reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than 10 percent, a magnitude of change that was, alas, barely visible to the naked eye," it said.

Cosmetic Surgery

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 13.1 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures performed in the US in 2010, a 77-percent increase over a decade.

The big trend is less invasive procedures that enable patients to get back to work and social settings without a long leave of absence. The most popular is treatment with the wrinkle-smoothing drugs Botox or Dysport, accounting for 5.4 million procedures, averaging US$400 per treatment. Other noninvasive procedures include soft-tissue facial fillers, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

More invasive procedures come at a higher price. Face-lifts can run from US$6,000 to US$15,000; the plastic surgeons' academy reported performing 112,000 of them in 2010.


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