He said all patients should follow the advice of their doctor about their daily use of aspirin.
These were the findings of a seven-year study into the benefits and risks of a daily, low dose of aspirin in people over 70 years.
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.
A major new study, published online Sunday in three articles in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), now calls that common practice into serious question. Researchers at Monash University in Australia engaged nearly 20,000 people in the country and in United States with an average age of 74.
Aspirin users did not have a lower risk of heart disease or live longer than those who took a placebo.
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.
While there were 21.5 cases of death, dementia or disability per 1,000 patients each year in the aspirin group, the rate was 21.2 with placebo. In fact, the group taking aspirin had an slightly elevated risk of death compared to the placebo group (5.9% vs 5.3%).
The cancer finding surprised researchers because in other studies, aspirin protected against death from cancer.
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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people between the ages of 50 and 59 take low doses of aspirin to prevent cardiovascular problems and colorectal cancer if they have a 10 per cent or greater chance of events such as heart attacks and strokes and do not have conditions that increase their chances of bleeding.
The trial was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Cancer Institute at the NIH; the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia; Monash University; and the Victorian Cancer Agency. "If you look at the new findings, at best it's neutral and at worst it increases the bleeding risk".
Their health was re-examined after around five years. Do you take aspirin regularly?
Internal bleeding is one of the possible side effects of taking aspirin, which is why the risks may outweigh any benefit for healthy, older adults, according to study co-author Anne Murray.
"There was more bleeding, particularly from the stomach and upper gastrointestinal tract", Prof McNeil told AAP. They found that the rates for major cardiovascular events-including coronary heart disease, nonfatal heart attacks, and fatal and nonfatal ischemic stroke-were similar in the aspirin and the placebo groups. "So, this is a welcomed study, but everybody who is now taking aspirin should obviously see their GP before making changes to their regime", he told Sky News.
So what should older healthy adults do with this new information about aspirin?
Should older people in good health start taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks, strokes, dementia and cancer?
This is the first clinical study to focus on older people.