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satt comments on Living Forever is Hard, or, The Gompertz Curve - Less Wrong

46 Post author: gwern 17 May 2011 09:08PM

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Comment author: satt 21 May 2011 05:17:36AM 3 points [-]

I haven't read the whole paper, but I also wanted to see what aspirin's effect on all causes of death was. (I wondered whether the higher risk of bleeding would offset the lower risk of cancer; it didn't.) The magic keywords to Ctrl-F for are "all-cause".

p. 34:

The reduction in cancer deaths on aspirin during the trials resulted in lowered in-trial all-cause mortality (10.2% vs 11.1%, OR 0.92, 0.85–1.00, p=0.047, webappendix p 4), even though other deaths were not reduced (0.98, 0.89–1.07, p=0.63).

p. 36:

In patients with scheduled duration of trial treatment of 5 years or longer, all-cause mortality was reduced at 15 years’ follow-up (HR 0·92, 0·86–0·99, p=0·03), due entirely to fewer cancer deaths, but this effect was no longer seen at 20 years (0·96, 0·90–1·02, p=0·37). However, the effect on post-trial deaths was diluted by a transient increase in risk of vascular death in the aspirin groups during the first year after completion of the trials (75 observed vs 46 expected, OR 1·69, 1·08–2·62, p=0·02), presumably due to withdrawal of trial aspirin.

p. 39:

Fourth, we were unable to determine the effect of long-term (eg, 20–30 years) continued aspirin use on cancer death or all-cause mortality because of the finite duration of the trials.


Our analyses show that taking aspirin daily for 5–10 years would reduce all-cause mortality (including any fatal bleeds) during that time by about 10% (relative risk reduction). Subsequently, there would be further delayed reductions in risk of cancer death, but no continuing excess risk of bleeding.

The big caveat I have in light of this is that the trial patients were in their 40s and older. I would guess the cost-benefit balance tilts the other way for sufficiently young people because younger people have a lower risk of cancer or CVD.