Moderate alcohol use may reduce risk of incident cataract surgery


April 06, 2021

2 min read

Khawaja reports he receives personal fees from Aerie, Allergan, Google Health, Novartis, Thea and Santen outside the submitted work and support from a Moorfields Eye Charity Career Development Fellowship and a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.

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People with low to moderate alcohol consumption demonstrated a lower risk of undergoing cataract surgery compared with nondrinkers and heavy drinkers, according to a study.

“People want to make informed choices regarding their lifestyle, including the potential risks and benefits of alcohol intake,” Anthony P. Khawaja, PhD, FRCOphth, co-author of the longitudinal observational study, told Healio/OSN. “We examined whether alcohol intake influences the risk of having future cataract surgery and found that alcohol intake within government guidelines was not associated with an increased risk of cataract and may even be associated with a reduced risk.”

Anthony P. Khawaja

The study included 469,387 participants from UK Biobank, with a mean follow-up of 95 months, and 23,162 participants from the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk, with a mean follow-up of 193 months. The mean age of participants in each study was 56 years and 59 years, respectively.

In total, there were 19,011 cases of incident cataract surgery in the UK Biobank cohort and 4,573 cases in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort.

EPIC-Norfolk participants completed a survey evaluating occupational and physical activity as well as their usual alcohol consumption, ranging from “never or less than once per month” to “six or more times per day.” Participants in the UK Biobank cohort completed a questionnaire evaluating health and lifestyle behaviors, which categorized alcohol intake on a scale of six frequency categories ranging from “never” to “daily or almost daily.”

After adjusting for covariables, alcohol consumers were statistically significantly less likely than nondrinkers to undergo cataract surgery in both the EPIC-Norfolk (P = .004) and UK Biobank (P < .001) cohorts.

“In this analysis of British adults, we report low to moderate consumption of alcohol to be associated with a reduced risk of undergoing subsequent cataract surgery; this finding was consistent between two independent studies with contrasting methods of ascertaining alcohol intake,” the study authors wrote. “The protective association was apparent whether any consumption of alcohol was compared with nonconsumption and whether the amount or frequency of alcohol intake was compared among drinkers only in dose-response analyses.”

Association of reduced risk of undergoing cataract surgery existed across all types of alcohol, but the strongest protective association was found in wine drinkers. Participants in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort with wine consumption habits in the third tertile had a 23% reduced risk of incident cataract, and in the UK Biobank cohort, red wine-drinking participants had a 14% reduced risk of incident cataract, regardless of the amount consumed.


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Elena Johaness

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