What are the risks and benefits of taking aspirin?
What is aspirin? It has an anti-inflammatory action, used for many years as a pain killer. It is used to relieve headache, menstrual pain and muscle aches. Based on evidence based medicine it has more recently it has been given to patients with known cardiovascular disease risk factors to reduce their chance of stroke and heart attack. The drug helps to prevent blood clots forming in the blood vessels, by stopping cells in the blood known as platelets from sticking together and clogging an artery. 75mg is recommend daily for heart disease prevention. There are some risks involved, low-dose aspirin treatment is linked with a very small increase in the risk major bleeding in the stomach and brain. Studies suggest that 769 people would needed to be treated with low-dose aspirin for one extra person to be harmed with major bleeding. Some studies have suggested aspirin may protect against cancer. Latest work in The Lancet that looks at 51 studies involving over 77,000 participants suggests aspirin not only reduces a person’s risk of developing cancer but could also help stop cancers spreading around the body. Cancer death rates were also significantly lower among people taking aspirin. Experts say there is still not enough evidence to recommend that fit and healthy people take aspirin as a precaution against cancer. Similarly, healthy people are not advised to take it to prevent heart disease because the risks of dangerous side effects, although small, outweigh the benefits. Low-dose daily aspirin is only recommended for those considered to be at risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Anyone considering taking aspirin is advised to talk to their doctor first.
(based partly on bbc.com/health)