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Complex Relationship Between Estrogen, Eye Disease Risk

Study explores estrogen exposure and risk of age-related macular degeneration

TUESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Postmenopausal hormone use is associated with an increased risk of early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but a reduced risk of neovascular AMD, the late stage of the disease, according to an article published in the Archives of Ophthalmology in April.

Diane Feskanich, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues assessed postmenopausal hormone use, prior use of oral contraceptives, ages at menarche and menopause, and parity in 74,996 postmenopausal women participating in the 22-year prospective Nurses' Health Study, in order to investigate the association between estrogen exposure and risk of AMD. Self-reported AMD was confirmed by medical record review.

Women currently taking postmenopausal hormones had a 48 percent lower risk of neovascular AMD than never users, the investigators found. The risk was lowest for women taking postmenopausal hormones who had used oral contraceptives in the past. However, current postmenopausal hormone use increased the risk of early AMD by 34 percent, the report indicates. Oral contraceptive use was not associated with an altered risk of early disease. No consistent relationship was observed between endogenous estrogen exposures and risk of AMD, with the exception of parous women having a 26 percent lower risk of early AMD.

"These findings suggest a role for estrogen in the pathogenesis of AMD that requires further research in specific early and late signs of disease," the authors write.

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