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Feb 04, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- HHS BEGINS 'QUITLINES'

The government is offering a network of toll-free "quitlines" for U.S. smokers who seek information and support on quitting. The main goal is to improve public health by reducing smoking-related diseases, said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. A single, nationwide toll-free telephone number will provide access to a three-tiered network. Under the HHS plan, states with "quitlines" in place would receive more funding, those without existing programs would receive grants to establish them, and the National Cancer Institute would provide some telephone counseling in the interim. Smoking causes about 440,000 premature deaths a year in the United States at a cost of about $75 billion in health care expenses.


Two University of Michigan studies report sleep apnea makes breathing more difficult all night, not just when breathing is visibly obstructed. The scientists believe brain waves change with each breath, not just within the short periods when snoring and short disruptions in breathing -- or apneas -- occur. Instead of using more common testing methods involving counting disruptions in breathing, the researchers at the Altarum Institute used a computer program to measure variations in the brain waves in relation to the breathing cycle during sleep. Although the data are preliminary, the researchers say it could lead to a better understanding of sleep apnea and its consequences, which include sleepiness in adults and hyperactivity in children.


Heart attack victims who get to a hospital quickly are four to five times more likely to survive than those who do not, Cornell University researchers say. Living closer to a hospital can improve chances of surviving a heart attack by about 1.25 percent for every five minutes of distance, they said. Distance should be taken into account when planning for hospital closures since about three-fifths of heart attack deaths occur before or just after patients reach the hospital, says Liam O'Neill, assistant professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell. Most related research has focused on in-hospital deaths, but this study estimated out-of-hospital deaths from a database of 22,000 heart attack patients from 228 Pennsylvania hospitals.


A study shows women who take aspirin regularly may lower their risk of colon cancer and other polyps, but high doses of the drug can lead to bleeding. Researchers at University of North Carolina and Massachusetts General used data from a 28-year study of 27,000 nurses, ages 34 to 77, who had received colon exams. Those who said they took aspirin regularly had a 25 percent lower risk of colon polyps -- often a precursor of cancer -- than women who did not take aspirin. Women who took 14 tablets a week had about half the risk factor of those who took no aspirin. Lead author Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist, says he would not recommend such high doses until more research is done on the side effects, which can include gastrointestinal bleeding.


(EDITORS: For more information about SMOKING, contact HHS Press Office at (202) 690-6343. For APNEA, Nicole Fawcett,, or Kara Gavin,, (734) 764-2220. For DISTANCE, Susan S. Lang, (607) 255-3613, For ASPIRIN, Susan C. Anderson at (215) 351-2653 or

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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