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Can aspirin prevent heart disease and cancer in women?

A large, long-term epidemiological study found that regular use of low-dose aspirin was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and, longer term, cancer.

These results are from a prospective, nested case-control study using data from the US Nurses Health Study, which started in 1980. Women in the study provided information on medication use every six months; this analysis used data from those with no cardiovascular disease at baseline. The authors calculated relative risk (RR) of death according to use of aspirin in cases (with a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease or cancer) and controls.

There were 79,439 women in the cohort studied, and over a 24-year follow-up period there were 9,477 deaths from all causes. Women who reported low-dose aspirin use had a lower risk of death from any cause compared with nonusers. As would be expected, the largest decrease was in risk of death from cardiovascular causes than for death from cancer; the reduction in cardiovascular risk also became apparent earlier (five years versus 10). Benefits were greater for older women.

The authors conclude that in women, use of low-to-moderate doses of aspirin is associated with a lower risk of mortality, especially in those who were older or had cardiovascular risk factors.