Mar. 15, 2000 Sunlight exposure appears to play a role in increasing the risk of cataract formation, according to an article appearing in the March issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, a member of the Journal of the American Medical Association family of journals.
The researchers studied 2,584 residents of Sète in southern France to evaluate the relationship of ambient solar radiation and professional and leisure exposures to light to different types of cataracts.
The researchers found high ambient solar radiation is associated with a 2.5-fold increased risk of cortical cataracts and a 4.0-fold increased risk of mixed cataracts. High ambient solar radiation also was associated with a 2.9-fold increased risk of cataract surgery.
"It seems that sunlight exposure throughout a lifetime may be important to cataract formation," the authors conclude. "These results raise the hope that simple preventive strategies, such as avoiding exposure at mid-day, may reduce the prevalence of cataracts."
According to background information cited in the study, cataract is the leading cause of blindness, accounting for 50 percent of blindness worldwide. In the United States, cataract surgery has become the most frequent surgical procedure in people 65 years or older, with an estimated cost to Medicare of $3.4 billion in 1991.
This study was supported by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Paris, France; by grants from the Foundation de France, Department of Epidemiology of Ageing, Paris, the Région Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier, France, the Foundation pour la Recherche Médicale, Paris, and the Association Retina-France, Toulouse; and by financial support from Rhône-Poulenc, Essilor, and the Centre de Recherche et d'Information Nutritionelles, Paris.
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