This common over-the-counter drug is now linked to cancer in older adults

It might be time to reconsider aspirin treatments.

For older adults with advanced cancer, a recent study found that taking daily, lose dose treatments of the over-the-counter drug may increase the risk of making cancer worse and even cause early death.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School worked on the study with colleagues from the Berman Center for Clinical Outcomes and Research in Minnesota and Monsah University in Australia to find the shocking new claims, which suggests that aspirin might not have the same benefits for older people as it does for younger generations.

The study, published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute, issued a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of daily lose-dose aspirin in healthy older adults. The dosage amounted to 100 mg, which is far lower than the typical dosage that runs between 325 mg to 500 mg. While prior research has suggested that aspirin may reduce the risk of developing cancer in middle-aged adults, what it does to older adults remains unknown, which is why researchers were eager to find out.

“Deaths were particularly high among those on aspirin who were diagnosed with advanced solid cancers, suggesting a possible adverse effect of aspirin on the growth of cancers once they have already developed in older adults,” Andrew Chan, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release.

Researchers conducted the experiment on 16,703 Australians over the age of 70 and 2,411 US adults aged 65 and older for nearly a five-year period. Participants did not cardiovascular disease, dementia, or physical disabilities at the start of the study.

The study found that 981 participants who were taking aspirin developed cancer, while 952 who were taking a placebo also developed it as well. Researchers noted that aspirin gave people a 19% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer that spread of metastasized, in addition to a 22% higher risk of it developing into advanced cancer, or stage 4.

“Although these results suggest that we should be cautious about starting aspirin therapy in otherwise healthy older adults, this does not mean that individuals who are already taking aspirin—particularly if they began taking it at a younger age—should stop their aspirin regimen,” Chan added.

The use of aspirin has been involved in multiple studies over the past years. A recent study found that daily aspirin use should continue to be used for those who have had a heart attack, but for younger people between ages 40-70, you should consult your doctor before using it daily due to the risk of bleeding.

Another study found that a daily regimen of low dose aspirin would only benefit a small portion of people, specifically 2.5% of women and 12% of men over the course of five years.

The following side effects are possible from daily aspirin therapy, according to the Mayo Clinic:

Stroke caused by a burst blood vessel. While daily aspirin can help prevent a clot-related stroke, it may increase your risk of a bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke).

Gastrointestinal bleeding. Daily aspirin use increases your risk of developing a stomach ulcer. And, if you have a bleeding ulcer or bleeding anywhere else in your gastrointestinal tract, taking aspirin will cause it to bleed more, perhaps to a life-threatening extent.

Allergic reaction. If you’re allergic to aspirin, taking any amount of aspirin can trigger a serious allergic reaction.