Sarah Baldauf

New research published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association casting doubt on the benefit of a daily aspirin in people with very early peripheral artery disease underscores the fact that aspirin therapy isn't for everyone. Who might benefit?

Here's what recent research on regular aspirin use reveals:

1. It may increase the risk of hearing loss.

In the March of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that regular use of aspirin--at least twice weekly--upped the risk of suffering hearing loss by 12 percent in men. Those younger than 50 had a 33 percent increased risk of hearing loss. Use of other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen also increased the risk of hearing loss.

2. It may cut pre-eclampsia risk during pregnancy.

A research review published in the Lancet in 2007 suggested that pregnant women who took aspirin or other antiplatelet drugs were 10 percent less likely to develop pre-eclampsia, which involves high blood pressure and potentially serious complications for mother and fetus. Aspirin therapy during pregnancy should definitely be discussed with an obstetrician.

3. It may reduce risk of developing colorectal cancers.

A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that aspirin use in certain patients who have had colorectal cancer (with tumors that express the COX-2 enzyme) may improve survival. And the journal Gastroenterology published a study in 2008 that found a significantly lowered risk of developing the cancers in men using aspirin (and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) regularly over the long term.

The benefits, however, were not evident until individuals had amassed a total of five years of regular use. Also, the dose with the biggest benefit--325-mg pills more than 14 times each week--is greater than typically recommended.

4. It may lower a woman's risk of breast cancer recurrence, or possibly even its development.

A report issued in February of 2010 based on data from the Nurses' Health Study suggested that women who had breast cancer and took a low-dose aspirin two to five times weekly were 71 percent less likely to have a deadly recurrence than those who took little or no aspirin.

And a research review published in 2008 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a 13 percent relative risk reduction in women who used aspirin regularly, compared with those who did not. The findings found an overall reduced risk of 12 percent for regular use of NSAIDs in general. Previous research on breast cancer risk and NSAID use had shown conflicting results.

5. It may throw off test results for prostate cancer.

In a 2008 issue of the journal Cancer, researchers reported that men who used aspirin and other NSAIDs regularly had about 10 percent lower levels of prostate-specific antigens. The researchers suggest this may hinder the detection of prostate cancer in regular aspirin users.


6. It may offer some protection against Alzheimer's disease.

Research has been inconclusive, but a 2008 review published in the journal Neurology found that people who used aspirin had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. The study added to an ongoing debate about whether certain types of NSAIDs--say, ibuprofen versus aspirin--were more beneficial.

7. It may help prevent strokes--unless you also take ibuprofen.

A small study published in 2008 in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that stroke patients who took daily aspirin to prevent another stroke and also took ibuprofen--say, for their arthritis--reaped no antiplatelet benefit. After a patient stopped the ibuprofen, the aspirin became effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that aspirin's benefits may be diminished by ibuprofen use.

8. It may protect against Parkinson's disease.

A 2007 study published in Neurology suggests that women who used aspirin regularly (defined as two or more times a week for at least a month at any point in their lives) may be 40 percent less likely to develop the disease.

9. It may prevent asthma in middle-aged women.

A 2008 study published in the journal Thorax found that women 45 and older who took 100 mg of aspirin every other day were 10 percent less likely to develop asthma over the next decade than women given a placebo. The study authors note that aspirin could exacerbate symptoms in about 10 percent of people already diagnosed with asthma.


10. It may provide zero protection against heart attacks in people with diabetes.

In 2008, the British Medical Journal published research that suggests diabetics taking aspirin to prevent a first heart attack are no less likely to experience an attack than those taking a placebo. People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke as the general public.

11. It may offer no protection to some sufferers of heart attack or stroke.

A 2008 research review published in the British Medical Journal found that nearly 30 percent of people with cardiovascular disease who took prescribed aspirin were resistant to its effects. Such "aspirin resistance," the study found, makes such patients four times as likely as those for whom aspirin had an effect to have a heart attack, stroke, or die.

12. It may be less effective in preventing heart attack death in women.

In 2008, a research review published in the journal BMC Medicine found that earlier studies showed a large benefit in men taking aspirin to reduce the rates of fatal heart attack, but women did not receive the same advantage. A 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation suggests some women may benefit from aspirin's action against ischemic strokes, however.

13. It may cause stomach troubles.

People taking aspirin or another NSAID are at higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and stomach ulcers--particularly with long-term use of the drug.

14. It may increase the risk of bleeding.

Aspirin is a blood thinner; it makes the blood's platelets less sticky, so to speak. Because of this mechanism, the drug makes blood less likely to clot. This is especially risky if bleeding occurs in the brain, which can be fatal.

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Health & Nutrition - 14 Things You Might Not Know About Aspirin