Is aspirin good for women?

A new study published on March 26, 2007, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has sparked controversy over the benefits or otherwise of aspirin in preventing heart disease and cancer1 in women. The Nurses' Health Study, which involved nearly 80,000 women over a 30-year period, suggests that aspirin confers health benefits on women. It noted that women who on a regular basis take low-dose aspirin, that is 81 milligrams of baby aspirin, or moderate-dose aspirin, 325 milligrams of adult aspirin, would less likely die than women who do not, 25% less likely of any cause, 38% of heart disease or stroke, and 28% of colon cancer.

The study also noted that women that routinely took high-dose aspirin, over 14 adult-strength tablets a week not only did not benefit, but also were 43% likelier to die from hemorrhagic stroke, that is bleed into the brain, versus those that did not. However, other experts have criticized this study as being observational, that the women decided whether to take aspirin, or not, rather than assigned randomly to do so, which is a more standardized, trial-type, research method. Experts thus caution that women should consult their doctors before taking aspirin, which could cause stomach ulcers and potentially fatal gastrointestinal bleeding.

Many previous trials showed that aspirin prevents heart disease and stroke in men, but its benefits in women are debatable, some experts asserting that there is no convincing cumulative evidence that aspirin is particularly effective in the primary prevention of death from heart disease and stroke in women. Aspirin prevents heart disease and strokes by blocking platelets from forming blood clots, its anti-inflammatory properties, considered important in cancer prevention.

References:

1. Chan, A.T. Archives of Internal Medicine, March 26, 2007; vol 167: pp. 562-572.