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More bad news for sun worshipers.

More bad news for sun worshipers

Sunny skies are thought to boost the risk of cataract, a clouding of the lens that impairs vision. But past reports of that connection have relied on gross estimates of solar-radiation exposure, which don't show anything about an individual's sun proclivity. New research by Gwen W. Collman of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., supports the sunshine-cataract link by looking at individual sun explosure.

"Our study showed a weak increase in the overall risk of opacities as lifetime exposure to the sun increase," Collman and her colleagues write in the November AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. That risk may increase in the future if depletion of the ozone layer allows more damaging ultraviolet radiation into the atmosphere, Collman notes.

Collman and her team looked at 113 patients with cataracts and 161 controls, aged 40 to 69, who visited a private ophthalmology practice in Asheboro, N.C. All subjects estimated lifetime sun exposure by answering questions about how much time they spent outdoors. Patients also reported medication use and other factors that can affect cataract formation.

Collman's study echoes previous research showing that dark-eyed persons run a higher risk of cataracts. The brown- and hazel-eyed subjects in her group had more cataracts than did the blue-, gray- and green-eyed patients. She suggests melanin in the iris may absorb solar radiation, delivering more damage to the lens.

Collman and her colleagues say they were surprised to find that patients who used tranquilizers had a higher risk of cataracts, because previous studies had shown no such correlation. Collman notes that some tranquilizers are known to make people light-sensitive, but adds that further study is needed to verify her group's findings.
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Title Annotation:link between sunlight and cataracts
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 12, 1988
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