To assess whether alcohol consumption is associated with the long-term incidence of cataract or cataract surgery.
Population-based prospective cohort study.
A total of 3654 persons aged 49+ years were examined at baseline and 2564 were re-examined after 5 and/or 10 years. Lens photographs were taken at each visit and assessed using the Wisconsin Cataract Grading System by masked graders. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect information on alcohol consumption.
No significant associations were observed between alcohol consumption and long-term risk of nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular cataract. However, after adjusting for age, gender, smoking, diabetes, myopia, socioeconomic status, and steroid use, total alcohol consumption of over 2 standard drinks per day was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of cataract surgery, when compared to total daily alcohol consumption of 1 to 2 standard drinks (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.16-3.81). Abstinence from alcohol was also associated with increased likelihood of cataract surgery when compared to a total alcohol consumption of 1 to 2 standard drinks per day (adjusted OR 2.36, 95% CI 1.25-4.46).
A U-shaped association of alcohol consumption with the long-term risk of cataract surgery was found in this older cohort: moderate consumption was associated with 50% lower cataract surgery incidence, compared either to abstinence or heavy alcohol consumption.