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Ground-breaking research finds daily aspirin dose doesn't lead to longer life

18 September 2018

Professor John McNeil, head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, said the research sought to answer a question which has been "unresolved for a number of years".

The use of aspirin by healthy people over 70 had no real impact on a person's likelihood to suffer from heart disease, dementia, stroke, cancer, or physical disability, the study found. He cautioned that the results do not apply to those with existing conditions such as a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, where aspirin is recommended as a valuable preventive drug. "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". It will do your heart health no good, as is popularly believed. Maybe I should take it, even if they haven't really had a heart attack, ' " Murray added.

For those who had previously survived a cardiovascular event, regular aspirin was beneficial, the study found. All participants had to be free of dementia or a physical disability. Patients who were black or Hispanic and living in the U.S. - two groups that face a higher risk of heart disease or dementia - could be age 65 or older.

"I've spent the last five, six years trying to get all my seniors to stop taking aspirin" based on the clear risks and unproven benefit, he told Reuters Health by phone.

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Hadley noted only 11 percent of participants had regularly taken low-dose aspirin before entering the study.

The group taking aspirin had an increased risk of death compared to the placebo group- 5.9 per cent of participants taking aspirin and 5.2 per cent taking placebo died during the study.

But the rate of bleeding was significantly different. Among those taking aspirin, 8.6 percent experienced a major bleeding episode versus 6.2 percent of those taking the placebo.

Doctor Leslie Ford, associate director for clinical research, at the National Cancer Institute in the USA, said: 'The increase in cancer deaths in study participants in the aspirin group was surprising, given prior studies suggesting aspirin use improved cancer outcomes.

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Doctors in Australia and the United States enrolled more than 19,000 healthy people - whites over the age of 70 and blacks and Hispanics aged 65 and older - in the study. But the researchers interpreted the data cautiously, because other studies have shown aspirin to have a protective effect against colorectal cancer.

He said all patients should follow the advice of their doctor about their daily use of aspirin.

"These initial findings will help to clarify the role of aspirin in disease prevention for older adults, but much more needs to be learned", Hadley said.

Some completely healthy people also choose to take aspirin to reduce their risk and there is continuing research into whether the drug can be used to cut the risk of cancer. In the new study, most volunteers fell into that category and aspirin didn't seem to help them.

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First developed in 1897, aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

Ground-breaking research finds daily aspirin dose doesn't lead to longer life