Sunlight and the 5-year incidence of early age-related maculopathy: the beaver dam eye study

Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Feb;119(2):246-50.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Macular Degeneration / diagnosis
  • Macular Degeneration / epidemiology*
  • Macular Degeneration / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnosis
  • Radiation Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Retina / radiation effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology