Daily aspirin use in older adults can spark adverse outcomes

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"This study shows why it is so important to conduct this type of research so that we can gain a fuller picture of aspirin's benefits and risks among healthy older persons", Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, said in a statement.

Researchers at Monash University in Australia recruited almost 20,000 people in that country and the United States, with a median age of 74.

The student was led by researched at Monash University and was publishes in the New England Journal of Medicine.

He said low-dose aspirin can be recommended to people who have a history of heart attack or stroke.

The researchers did not state whether healthy older people who have been taking aspirin should stop.

"We found there was no discernible benefit of aspirin on prolonging independent, healthy life for the elderly", Dr. Anne Murray, one of the authors of the study and an epidemiologist and geriatrician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Rob Stein.

The trial followed 19,114 seniors - 2,411 from the USA and 16,703 Australians - for an average of 4.7 years.

The higher pace of cancer deaths became apparent three and a half years after the study began, particularly death from stomach and intestinal tumors.

Partially the study competitors acquired 100 milligrams of aspirin a day and the rest of the participants secured a placebo.

Participants had to be 70 years or older (or 65 and older among blacks and Hispanics in the U.S.). "Unless the cardiovascular risk is very high ( 20% over ten years), prophylactic aspirin results in more harm than good".

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"Cancer was the major contributor to the higher mortality in the aspirin group, accounting for 1.6 excess deaths per 1000 person-years".

They were also at "significantly" increased risk of serious internal bleeding.

"[The elderly population] is where the taking of aspirin is most likely to have its risks", McNeil explained.

At the end of the study, the rate of cardiovascular disease between the two groups of participants was not much different: 9,525 of those taking the aspirin had developed cardiovascular disease compared to 9,589 of those taking the placebo.

When the researchers looked at death, disability and dementia, they found virtually no difference between the aspirin-taking group and the group given a placebo: 21.5 events per 1000 person-years in the former and 21.2 per 1000 person-years in the latter.

McNeil added that a small increase in deaths observed in the aspirin group, primarily from cancer, required further investigation as researchers can not rule out that it may be a chance finding.

"ASPREE is a study that was probably long overdue", he said.

Heart disease and stroke accounted for 19 per cent of the deaths and major bleeding for five per cent.

"Aspirin remains a relatively safe medication, but more research was needed to investigate the longer-term benefits and risks of its daily use", he said, adding that researchers were following the health of participants to determine if benefits, including cancer prevention, emerge from taking the drug over a period of time.

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