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Warning over daily aspirin risks
Taking aspirin every day may not be worth the risk for those with no history of heart problems, a major study has concluded.
The findings add to evidence that, for healthy people, the dangers associated with aspirin can outweigh the benefits.
Aspirin, which thins the blood and helps prevent clotting, is a standard treatment for patients recovering from heart attacks or strokes.
Many doctors have also prescribed regular aspirin on a precautionary basis to healthy people who may be at increased risk due to their medical and family history.
But long-term use of aspirin can lead to stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.
The new study, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine and based on an analysis of data from nine clinical trials involving more than 100,000 participants, showed that regular aspirin could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease events by 10%.
However, this was largely due to a reduction in non-fatal heart attacks. The benefit was offset by a 30% increase in the risk of life-threatening or debilitating internal bleeding events.
For every 120 people treated with aspirin for around six years, one cardiovascular event was averted. But over the same period, one in 73 people suffered from potentially significant bleeding.
Lead researcher Dr Rao Seshasai, from St George's, University of London, said: "The beneficial effect of aspirin on preventing future cardiovascular disease events in people with established heart attacks or strokes is indisputable. We urge people with these conditions not to discontinue their medication unless advised to do so by their physicians for valid reasons.
"However, the benefits of aspirin in those individuals not known to have these conditions are far more modest than previously believed and, in fact, aspirin treatment may potentially result in considerable harm due to major bleeding."