Scientists Offer Formula

For Lung Cancer Risk

How long and how much you smoked, and how long since you had your last puff, make a difference in the risk of getting lung cancer. Scientists have come up with a formula that certain smokers and ex-smokers can use to calculate that risk -- one that could help people decide if they want a controversial test for lung cancer.

The formula, published in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute, works only for certain people -- those older than 50, who smoked at least half a pack a day for at least 25 years -- because it is based on a study that tracked cancer development in just those people.

Researchers from New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center created the formula and posted a version on the center's Web site, www.mskcc.org/PredictionTools/LungCancer.

Doctors have used a similar model for years that calculates age, family medical history and other factors to predict a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. The new formula will help doctors "be more specific now about who is at greatest risk," said Tom Glynn of the American Cancer Society.

That is particularly important as more people consider getting those aggressively advertised, but still unproven, spiral CT scans to hunt early lung cancer, Glynn said.

-- Associated Press

Anthrax Cases Caused

Spike in Prescriptions

Tens of thousands of Americans rushed to get prescriptions for antibiotics after the October 2001 anthrax letter attacks that killed five people, government researchers said yesterday.

Data from a company that tracks drug prescription information suggest that people who had no business getting antibiotics talked their doctors into giving them prescriptions, a team at the Food and Drug Administration found in a report published in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

The anthrax-laced letters, sent to television and newspaper offices and two members of Congress, made 22 people sick and killed five. As soon as it became clear what was happening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave antibiotics to 10,000 people in four states and in Washington.

But reports at the time suggested that many more people afraid they may have been exposed tried to get antibiotics, notably ciprofloxacin and doxycycline, the main approved drugs for treating anthrax.

Julie Beitz, Douglas Shaffer and colleagues at FDA obtained data from IMS Health, a company that tracks prescriptions. It showed a surge in prescriptions for Cipro and doxycycline in October 2001 -- a 40 percent increase for Cipro and a 30 percent spike for doxycycline over figures for the same time in 2000.

This added up to 160,000 extra prescriptions of Cipro and 96,000 of doxycycline in October alone. All other antibiotic use followed the usual pattern for that time of year, the team said.

-- Reuters