London: Should older people in good health start taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks, strokes, dementia and cancer?

No, according to a study of  19,114 people aged 65 and older who were randomly given a daily low-dose aspirin. They were then followed for an average of 4.7 years.

Taking it did not lower their risks of cardiovascular disease, dementia or disability. And it increased the risk of significant bleeding in the digestive tract, brain or other sites that required transfusions or admission to the hospital.

The results were published in three articles in The New England Journal of Medicine.

One disturbing result puzzled the researchers because it had not occurred in previous studies: a slightly greater death rate among those who took aspirin, mostly because of an increase in cancer deaths. 

Experts warned last night that tens of thousands of healthy people may be self-medicating with the over-the-counter drug on the basis of a flawed belief in its benefits.