Aspirin Benefits & Harms
Aspirin is useful − and sometimes critical − to treat and prevent disease. Aspirin can save lives, prevent heart attacks and strokes, and even reduce the incidence of cancer. For some patients, however, aspirin may do more harm than good. Click here to read more.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends prescribing aspirin for prevention if benefits outweigh harms2
Do not prescribe aspirin for patients at low risk for cardiovascular events or at high risk for side effects.
Weigh aspirin benefits against aspirin harms
Aspirin increases risk of serious bleeding in both men and in women—a risk that increases as patients age.3-5
- Risk of hemorrhagic stroke is increased in men6
- Serious GI bleeding increases fourfold when aspirin is given with NSAIDs vs. aspirin alone.5
- Serious bleeding rates are 2-3 times higher in patients taking aspirin with a history of GI ulcers.5
Aspirin’s role in cancer prevention7-9
Evidence strongly suggests aspirin prevents colorectal cancer, lymphoma and other cancer-related deaths, especially in patients who take aspirin for more than 5 years.
- Benefits are independent of age, sex and smoking status.
- Pooled analysis of 20,000 patients showed 24% reduction in the 20-year risk of colorectal cancer.
- Studies show a trend toward a reduced risk of female cancers (e.g., ovarian, cervical and breast cancer).
- Researchers speculate that aspirin inhibits cancer growth by inhibiting COX-2 enzyme.
Aspirin may prevent cognitive decline in women10
- Older women at higher risk of cardiovascular disease may experience slower declines in cognitive function by taking daily aspirin.
- Majority of women had a high risk of cardiovascular disease, based on their risk factors and age.
- Of the 489 women available at the end of the monitoring period, a slower decline in cognition was most pronounced in those who took aspirin for 5 years.