Objective: To investigate the relation of sunlight exposure and indicators of sun sensitivity with the 5-year incidence of early age-related maculopathy (ARM).
Design: Longitudinal, population-based study. Participants (aged 43-86 years at baseline) in the Beaver Dam Eye Study were reexamined from 1993 to 1995, 5 years after the baseline examination. Questionnaire data about sunlight exposure and sun sensitivity were obtained at baseline. Additional information about earlier life patterns of exposure was ascertained at follow-up. Stereoscopic color fundus photographs were graded to determine the presence of ARM at the 5-year follow-up in eyes free from signs of early ARM at the baseline examination.
Results: Leisure time spent outdoors while persons were teenagers (aged 13-19 years) and in their 30s (aged 30-39 years) was significantly associated with the risk of early ARM (odds ratio, 2.09; 95% confidence interval, 1.19-3.65). There was a slight, but nonsignificant, protective effect associated with use of hats and sunglasses while persons were teenagers and in their 30s (odds ratio, 0.72; 95% confidence interval, 0.50-1.03). People with red or blond hair were slightly more likely to develop early ARM than people with darker hair (odds ratio, 1.33; 95% confidence interval, 0.97-1.83). There were no associations between estimated ambient UV-B exposure or markers of sun sensitivity and the incidence of early ARM.
Conclusion: Exposure to sunlight may be associated with the development of early ARM.