Research into almost 20,000 older people found those who were generally healthy derived no protective benefit from the blood-thinning pill - but it increased their risk of risky bleeds.
The researchers stressed, however, that the cancer finding might have been a fluke.
The researchers found an increase in the number of cases of serious internal bleeding among the aspirin takers (3.8%) compared to the placebo group (2.8%). About half of them took 100 milligrams of aspirin daily (slightly more than a baby aspirin, which has 81 milligrams) and the other half were given a placebo. ASPREE has provided this answer, McNeil said.
Aspirin has been touted as preventing heart attacks and strokes in people with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease.
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"The authors rightly suggest treating the unexpected effects with caution, but they also show that benefits of aspirin in healthy people are at best limited, and may well be harmful, and this harm may be increased beyond age 73", Evans added.
The ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial of more than 19,000 participants in Australia and the U.S. is the largest and most comprehensive study to look at whether the many millions of older people around the world who take (100mg) low dose aspirin to preserve good health are deriving any benefit by doing so. They were followed for an average of 4.7 years to determine outcomes. Well, you might want to stop taking it now because a study released recently shows that small, daily doses of aspirin might do more harm than good for healthy seniors. Researchers at Monash University in Australia engaged nearly 20,000 people in the country and in USA with an average age of 74.
But the odds of a major bleeding episode were 38 percent higher with aspirin. The higher death rate in the aspirin-treated group was due primarily to a higher rate of cancer deaths.
"This gives pause and a reason for older people and their physician to think carefully about the decision whether to take low-dose aspirin regularly or not", Hadley says.
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While US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines on aspirin use, among other worldwide guidelines, recommend a daily dose to prevent cardiovascular disease between the age of 50 and 69, a lack of available research meant this recommendation was not extended to people older than 70. They noted however the escalated rate of bleeding in the team that accrued aspirin, as compared to the team that accrued a placebo. Hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal hemorrhages or hemorrhages at other sites that required transfusion or hospitalization occurred in 361 people on aspirin and in 265 taking the placebo.
Surprisingly, those who took daily aspirin also appeared to be more likely to die overall, apparently from an increased risk of succumbing to cancer.
He said anyone with questions should follow the advice of their doctor. "The ASPREE team is continuing to analyze the results of this study and has implemented plans for monitoring participants". For cardiovascular disease, the rate was 10.7 events per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person-years in the placebo group - also considered no difference.
The ASPREE trial was partly supported by NIH funding (U01AG029824).
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