Daily aspirin may be harmful for healthy, older adults, large study finds

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Do you or someone you know take a low-dose of aspirin because you believe that it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, memory-related issues and cancer?

According to McNeil, these results should make those who are taking aspirin preventatively of their own accord think twice, noting that "many people take [aspirin] without medical advice".

The results were published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"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. However, the higher death rate was due to more cancer deaths in the aspirin group, which could have been due to chance, the researchers said.

"[The study] has provided this answer".

Many healthyAmericans take a baby aspirin every day to reduce their risk of having a heart attack, getting cancer and even possibly dementia. It was called the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial. Clinically significant bleeding-hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal hemorrhages or hemorrhages at other sites that required transfusion or hospitalization-occurred in 361 people (3.8 percent) on aspirin and in 265 (2.7 percent) taking the placebo. There's also a possibility that any colorectal cancer benefit wasn't seen because the subjects had only been followed for about five years. 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. Among the people randomly assigned to take aspirin, 90.3 percent remained alive at the end of the treatment without persistent physical disability or dementia, compared with 90.5 percent of those taking a placebo.

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The doctors unexpectedly found that those who took aspirin were slightly more likely to have died over the course of the trial (5.9%) than those who took the placebo (5.2%). Also, the rates of physical disability dementia were similar in both groups.

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Prof McNeil cautioned the findings did not apply to those with existing conditions where aspirin is recommended as a preventive measure against further heart attacks, strokes or angina. But the new study, known as ASPREE, looked at the long-standing question of whether a first heart attack, stroke, or case of heart failure could be prevented with small amounts of the blood thinner in aspirin.

MURRAY: So the risks outweigh the benefits for taking low-dose aspirin in people who are otherwise healthy and haven't had a heart attack or a stroke.

Lead author Professor John McNeil says the results are clear: "If you don't need it, don't take it". Professor Christina Mitchell, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, said Monash University was at the forefront of healthcare improvement underpinned by the quality and scale of our research capabilities in this space.

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