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For the first time, a US-backed panel of independent medical experts is backing aspirin for helping to prevent a specific type of cancer.
People between the ages of 50 and 59 years at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke should take daily low-dose aspirin to help prevent colon cancer, according to proposed recommendations from a US-backed panel of independent medical experts.
Taking aspirin for at least 10 years could help reduce the risk of developing this specific type of cancer, according to the recommendations, which came from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
The proposal is narrower than the group’s previous recommendations, which separated guidelines by gender and also recommended the drug for people outside ages 50 to 59.
The changes are based on the inclusion of colon cancer risk into the recommendation and the addition of four clinical trials on the use of aspirin since 2009.
“The people we recommend taking aspirin are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and who are not at an increased risk of bleeding complications,” said Dr. Doug Owens, a member of the panel who is also affiliated with the Stanford School of Medicine in California.
Last year, the FDA rejected labeling aspirin for the use of preventing heart attacks and strokes.
The new recommendation is specifically for people expected to live at least 10 years, and who are at a 10% or greater risk of heart attack or stroke during that time. The risk is based on the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology calculator, which takes into account cholesterol and blood pressure.
For at-risk people aged 60 to 69 years, the guidelines say the benefit is not as large compared to people ages 50 to 59 years, and decisions to take aspirin should be made on a case by case basis.
The group said it did not have enough data to determine whether people aged 50 or younger and people aged 70 or older should take daily low-dose aspirin.
“Overall, the USPSTF did a really thorough job ” said Dr. Mark Creager, president of the American Heart Association. “I think they’re right on target in how they evaluated the data, what their recommendation was, who was involved and the grade of the recommendation.”
But, according to The New York Times, millions take aspirin when they don’t have to. And that worries some critics of the recommendation, who are concerned that people who are healthy will start taking aspirin and encounter some of aspirin’s side effects. Those side effects include nausea, vomiting and stomach bleeds.
If the recommendations are finalized, they’ll be used to used to help set health insurance reimbursement policies under the Affordable Care Act.