People who use aspirin regularly for at least 10 years run a small risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a potentially blinding condition, researchers report.

In the United States, an estimated 19 percent of adults use aspirin regularly and its use increases with age, the University of Wisconsin researchers noted. Meanwhile, the incidence of age-related macular degeneration is increasing as the population ages.

"There are a lot of people taking aspirin for cardioprotection," said lead researcher Dr. Barbara Klein, from the university's School of Medicine and Public Health. "The question is: is it worth the possible increase in [risk for] age-related macular degeneration, compared to the risk of getting a heart attack?"

"These data do not suggest that people should stop taking aspirin for cardioprophylaxis," Klein said.

The report appears in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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For the study, Klein's team collected data on almost 5,000 men and women in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Participants had their eyes checked every five years over a 20-year period and were asked about their use of aspirin.

Over almost 15 years of follow-up, 512 people developed early macular degeneration and 117 people developed late macular degeneration.

Those who took aspirin for 10 years almost doubled their risk for developing macular degeneration, compared with a less than 1 percent risk for those who did not take it. Aspirin users were found to have a 1.4 percent increased risk of developing late age-related macular degeneration, compared with an 0.6 percent risk for those not taking it.

These findings show an association between age-related macular degeneration and aspirin use, and not a cause-and-effect relationship. -- HealthDay