Low-dose Aspirin late in life? Healthy people may not need it

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(Denise Grady/ New York Times) — Should older people in good health start taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks, strokes, dementia and cancer?

No, according to a study of more than 19,000 people, including whites 70 and older, and blacks and Hispanics 65 and older. They took low-dose aspirin — 100 milligrams — or a placebo every day for a median of 4.7 years. Aspirin did not help them — and may have done harm.

Taking it did not lower their risks of cardiovascular disease, dementia or disability. And it increased the risk of significant bleeding in the digestive tract, brain or other sites that required transfusions or admission to the hospital.

The results were published on Sunday in three articles in The New England Journal of Medicine.

One disturbing result puzzled the researchers because it had not occurred in previous studies: a slightly greater death rate among those who took aspirin, mostly because of an increase in cancer deaths — not new cancer cases, but death from the disease. That finding needs more study before any conclusions can be drawn, the authors cautioned. Scientists do not know what to make of it, particularly because earlier studies had suggested that aspirin could lower the risk of colorectal cancer. (…)

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