To describe the relationship between alcohol consumption and the incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
We conducted a prospective study among female nurses between 1980 and 1994 and among male health professionals between 1986 and 1994. We included 32,764 women and 29,488 men who were 50 years or older, without a diagnosis of AMD or cancer at baseline, and added additional subjects to the analysis as they reached 50 years of age. Their alcohol intake was assessed at baseline and updated during follow-up evaluations using a validated semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire. After separate analyses for women and men, pooled estimates of the relationship of alcohol to the risk of AMD were calculated.
Age-related macular degeneration associated with a visual acuity loss of 20/30 or worse, including the early and dry and wet types, was diagnosed in 298 women (from 697,498 person-years of follow-up) and 153 men (229,180 person-years) by 1994, the end of follow-up. After controlling for age, smoking, and other risk factors, the pooled relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for AMD compared with nondrinkers were 1.0 (0.7-1.2) for drinkers who consumed 0.1 to 4.9 g/d of alcohol; 0.9 (0.6-1.4) for 5 to 14.9 g/d; 1.1 (0.7-1.7) for 15 to 29.9 g/d; and 1.3 (0.9-1.8) for 30 g/d or more. Among women, there was a suggestion of a modest increased risk of the disease in drinkers who consumed 30 g/d or more (RR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0-2.4); this was limited to an increased risk of the early and dry form (RR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.2-3.4). No specific type of alcohol provided protection against AMD.
This prospective study does not support an inverse relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and risk of AMD.