This is the first time that the task force, a federally appointed group of 16 doctors, has endorsed aspirin as a way of preventing both cardiovascular disease and colon cancer, which are major causes of death among adults in this country. The action follows its draft recommendation last fall.
"Before starting to take aspirin for primary prevention, people aged 50 to 69 should talk to their primary care clinician to understand their risk for cardiovascular disease and risk of bleeding," said task force chair Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
The new guidance applies to people who aren't at increased risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, who have at least a 10-year life expectancy, who are willing to take low-dose aspirin daily for at least 10 years, and who have a 10 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over a decade.
Primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease include older age, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.
The group, which reaches its decisions by weighing benefits and harms, concluded that insufficient evidence exists to make a recommendation for prophylactic aspirin use by people younger than 50 and older than 70.