Lifetime exposure to ambient ultraviolet radiation and the risk for cataract extraction and age-related macular degeneration: the Alienor Study

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 Oct 21;55(11):7619-27. doi: 10.1167/iovs.14-14471.


Purpose: While exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is a recognized risk factor for cataract, its association is more controversial with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We report the associations of lifetime exposure to ambient UVR with cataract extraction and AMD.

Methods: The Alienor Study is a population-based study of 963 residents of Bordeaux (France), aged 73 years or more. Lifetime exposure to ambient UVR was estimated from residential history and Eurosun satellite-based estimations of ground UVR. It was divided in three groups (lower quartile, intermediate quartiles, upper quartile), using the intermediate quartiles as the reference. Early and late AMD was classified from retinal color photographs. Cataract extraction was defined as absence of the natural lens at slit-lamp.

Results: After multivariate adjustment, subjects in the upper quartile of lifetime ambient UVR exposure were at increased risk for cataract extraction (odds ratio [OR] = 1.53; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-2.26; P = 0.03) and for early AMD (OR = 1.59; 95% CI, 1.04-2.44; P = 0.03), by comparison with subjects in the intermediate quartiles. Subjects in the lower quartile of UVR exposure also were at increased risk for early AMD (OR = 1.69; 95% CI, 1.06-2.69; P = 0.03), by comparison with those with medium exposure. Associations of late AMD with UVR exposure was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: This study further confirms the increased risk for cataract extraction in subjects exposed to high ambient UVR. Moreover, it suggests that risk for early AMD is increased in subjects exposed to high UVR, but also to low UVR, by comparison with medium exposures.

Keywords: cataract; epidemiology; light exposure; macular degeneration; risk factors; ultraviolet radiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cataract / epidemiology*
  • Cataract / etiology
  • Cataract Extraction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lens, Crystalline / radiation effects
  • Macular Degeneration / epidemiology*
  • Macular Degeneration / etiology
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*