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April 13, 2005

Lead Exposure and Cataract Risk in Men

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(14):1724-1725. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1724-a

To the Editor: Dr Schaumberg and colleagues reported an association between lead accumulation in the tibia and age-related cataract in men in the Normative Aging Study.1 This association persisted after adjusting for known cataract risk factors including diabetes, vitamin intake, and cigarette smoking. However, the contribution of socioeconomic status (SES) to the risk of cataract was not examined. Lower SES has been associated with increased risk of cataracts in the United States and other countries.2,3 Increased exposure to lead is also associated with lower SES.4,5 Therefore, it is important to know whether an association exists between lead accumulation and SES among the participants in the Normative Aging Study. Absence of this association would support lead accumulation as a contributor to cataract formation. If this association is present, it is possible that lead accumulation accounts for some of the increased risk of cataracts that has been attributed to lower SES in other studies; alternatively, greater lead accumulation may instead be a marker for other risk factors that are associated with low SES such as poor nutrition, increased prevalence of diseases, and increased exposure to other environmental or job-related contaminants that are the actual causal agents.

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