He added: "It means millions of healthy older people around the world who are taking low-dose aspirin without a medical reason may be doing so unnecessarily, because the study showed no overall benefit to offset the risk of bleeding".
However, the cases of major bleeding were 38 per cent more with aspirin.
The disappointing findings come from an extensive, randomised and controlled study that first began in 2010, known as the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial. Significant hemorrhage occurrences elementarily involved upper gastrointestinal and intracranial bleeding. The authors said that "these findings should be interpreted with caution" until more studies are completed, particularly because other research has concluded that the drug helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
But less expected was the effect the drug seemed to have on cancer death rates.
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.
They also attributed the higher mortality in this test group to cancer-related deaths.
According to principal investigator of the study, John McNeil, who is head of Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, the results of the trial will result in a rethinking of global guidelines relating to the use of aspirin to prevent common conditions associated with ageing.
Over a four-year span starting in 2010, the trial enrolled more than 19,000 people in Australia and the U.S. who were 70 and older, or 65 for African-American and Hispanic participants because their risks of dementia or cardiovascular disease are higher. ASPREE has provided this answer.
Doctors last night said the findings "emphatically" showed there was no reason to use aspirin to prevent disease in healthy people and warned it may harm. "It is to the great credit to the US NIH and the Australian NHMRC that they recognised this need and underwrote the substantial cost of undertaking a study of this magnitude".
He said that the question of whether or not to prescribe aspirin to the healthy elderly is faced regularly by a typical GP.
Elderly people in good health should not take an aspirin a day, according to a major study in the USA and Australia. They remind patients to consult their GP before changing their aspirin regime.
Aspirin has been touted as preventing heart attacks and strokes in people with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease. But there's been a more contentious debate about whether preventative aspirin could help relatively healthy people avoid heart problems.
One surprise for the researchers was that the group that took aspirin died at a slightly higher rate from all causes than the group that did not take it.
"And we welcome all those inquiries into our consultation rooms today".
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