Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, said the research sought to answer a question which has been "unresolved for a number of years".

A trial of aspirin in the elderly was first called for in the early 1990s.

"The reason we wanted to do the study is that we wanted to fill that information gap for people 70 and older", Dr. Murray said.


Over 19,000 people in Australia and the U.S. were studied over seven years for the study was called ASPREE - Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly.

When they were followed up after a period of five years, the research team found the aspirin group did not show any overall reduction in their risk of heart attack or stroke compared to their counterparts. The higher death rate in the aspirin-treated group was due primarily to a higher rate of cancer deaths.

Extra cases of cancer were the chief reason for the higher death rate, with 3.1 per cent of aspirin users dying of cancer versus 2.3 per cent in the control group.

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.

"That's an issue in the elderly when people's blood vessels are a bit more fragile", Professor McNeil said.

Millions of people take small doses of aspirin, like a baby aspirin, every day to reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.


The APREE trial was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the Australian National Health and Medical Council, Victorian Cancer Agency and Monash University. Patients who were black or Hispanic and living in the United States were included in the study as they face a higher risk of heart disease or dementia generally. According to the Heart Foundation recommendations as well, people without coronary heart disease do not need to take daily aspirin.

Major risks of bleeding in people who consume aspirin on a daily basis overwhelm its benefits. This counted the uptick in upper gastrointestinal bleeding (HR 1.87, 95% CI 1.32-2.66) and intracranial bleeds (HR 1.50, 95% CI 1.11-2.02).

As would be expected in older people, cancer was a common cause of death, and 50 per cent of those who died in the trial had some type of cancer.

It has always been established that aspirin saves lives when taken by people after a cardiac event such as a heart attack.

This is the first clinical study to focus on older people. It was noticed that 90.5 percent of the seniors on placebo showed no onset of medical problems when compared to 90.3 percent of those on aspirin. Patients who were black or Hispanic and living in the United States - two groups that face a higher risk of heart disease or dementia - could be age 65 or older.


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