Task Force Releases Recommendations on Aspirin to Prevent Colon Cancer, Heart Disease

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published new recommendations about aspirin to help prevent cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes) and colorectal cancer (commonly called colon cancer).

The USPSTF says people who are ages 50-59 years, who have at least a 10% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years, and who have no increased risk for bleeding should take low-dose aspirin regularly to help prevent heart attack, stroke, and colon cancer. Candidates should also have a life expectancy of at least 10 years and be willing to take low-dose aspirin every day for at least 10 years.

The USPSTF is an independent panel of experts authorized by Congress to make recommendations about specific preventive services for patients with no signs or symptoms. It released a draft of these recommendations in September, 2015. The final recommendations were published Monday, April 11, in Annals of Internal Medicine.

For people ages 60-69 years who have at least a 10% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years, the USPSTF says to discuss taking daily low-dose aspirin with your doctor. For this age group, the benefits of regular aspirin use are not as clear. While studies have shown that regular use of low-dose aspirin can help prevent heart attack, stroke, and colon cancer, it also increases the risk of serious bleeding.

In making its recommendations, the task force weighed the benefits and risks of taking aspirin for prevention of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer by reviewing past studies and using a model to predict how many people would develop cardiovascular disease and colon cancer with and without regular aspirin use.

The USPSTF notes that there was not enough evidence to make a recommendation for people younger than age 50 or older than age 69.

Taking aspirin solely to help prevent cancer is still not being recommended. Regular use of aspirin can cause internal bleeding, and is more dangerous for some people than others. Anyone considering taking daily low-dose aspirin should talk to their doctor first.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

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