Pop a daily aspirin to help prevent heart attacks, stroke and colon cancer

Published April 11, 2016

Taking a daily dose of aspirin can help prevent both heart disease and colorectal cancer in adults ages 50 to 69 who are at an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, an independent panel of medical experts said Monday.

The final recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said that low-dose aspirin — typically, 81 mg — is most beneficial for people ages 50 to 59. For adults 60 to 69, a decision should be made with their doctors because aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding, the panel said.

This is the first time that the task force, a federally appointed group of 16 doctors, has endorsed aspirin as a way of preventing both cardiovascular disease and colon cancer, which are major causes of death among adults in this country. The action follows its draft recommendation last fall.

"Before starting to take aspirin for primary prevention, people aged 50 to 69 should talk to their primary care clinician to understand their risk for cardiovascular disease and risk of bleeding," said task force chair Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California at San Francisco.

The guidance applies to people who aren't at increased risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, who have at least a 10-year life expectancy, and who have a 10 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over a decade.