Cardiff University-led study finds the benefits of taking aspirin outweigh the risks to the stomach

A study led by Cardiff University has found that stomach bleeds caused by aspirin are much less serious than the spontaneous bleeds that can occur in people not taking aspirin (Cardiff University, 2016).

The extensive study of the literature reveals that while regular use of aspirin does increase the risk of stomach bleeds by about a half there is no valid evidence that any of these bleeds are fatal.

Professor Peter Elwood, from the University’s School of Medicine, said “Although many people use aspirin daily to reduce the risk of health problems such as cancer and heart disease, the wider use of the drug is severely limited because of the side effect of bleeding from the stomach…With our study showing that there is no increased risk of death from stomach bleeding in people who take regular aspirin, we hope there will be better confidence in the drug and wider use of it by older people, leading to important reductions in deaths and disablement from heart disease and cancer across the community.”

Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death and disability around the world. Research has shown a small daily dose of aspirin can reduce the occurrence of both diseases by around 20-30%. Recent research has also shown that low doses of aspirin given to patients with cancer, alongside chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, are an effective additional treatment, reducing the deaths of patients with bowel and possibly other cancers, by a further 15%.

The study “Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials to ascertain fatal gastrointestinal bleeding events attributable to preventive low dose aspirin: No evidence of increased risk” has been published in Public Library of Science. The study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. This type of research provides the strongest evidence for drawing causal conclusions because it draws together all of the best evidence.

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