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Cancer Overview
Heart Health

New Benefits Found for Aspirin

Taking an aspirin a day can help some older Americans reduce heart-attack risk, prevent some cancers and cancer deaths, and extend their lives, according to a new study from the University of Southern California (USc).

The study found that the people who benefited from daily low-dose aspirin had a high risk of heart disease. Researchers also said that taking the aspirin could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the course of 20 years.

In addition, USC researchers who conducted the study found that a daily aspirin regimen by older patients would result in an estimated net health benefit worth $692 billion for the U.S. population.

Their findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Although the health benefits of aspirin are well established, few people take it,” said lead author David B. Agus, the founding director and CEO of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine at USC, and a USC professor of medicine and engineering. “Our study shows multiple health benefits and a reduction in health care spending from this simple, low-cost measure that should be considered a standard part of care for the appropriate patient.”

The long-term benefits of low-dose, daily aspirin were questioned this year after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-backed panel of experts, issued updated aspirin guidelines that declared the clinical benefit of aspirin, but seemed at odds with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is concerned that some patients, particularly those 60 and older, face an increased risk of stroke and bleeding — both gastrointestinal and in the brain — if they take aspirin daily.

“The problem that this creates for Americans and medical professionals is that the information about aspirin is confusing,” said study co-author Étienne Gaudette, an assistant professor at the USC School of Pharmacy and policy director of the USC Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation. “This means some Americans who would benefit from aspirin aren’t taking it. Through our study, we sought to make it much easier for everyone to understand what the long-term benefits are.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. One in every four deaths in the United States each year is attributed to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aspirin can help patients at risk of heart disease because it thins the blood and prevents clotting.

Last April, the USPSTF ultimately recommended low-dose aspirin use to prevent heart disease and colorectal cancer for only certain older adults: those 50 to 59 years old who have at least a 10 percent or greater risk of developing heart disease in 10 years, are not at increased risk for bleeding, have a life expectancy of at least 10 years and are willing to take low-dose aspirin daily for at least 10 years. (The risks for heart disease include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.)