Statins May Cut Risk of Cataracts by Half

The risk of developing cataracts, particularly nuclear and cortical cataracts, is reduced by almost 50% with the use of statins, according to findings from the Blue Mountain Eye Study reported in the April issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

The researchers, led by Dr. Jennifer S. L. Tan of the University of Sydney, Australia, prospectively evaluated the association between statin use and the development of cataracts in 3,654 elderly subjects enrolled in the study between 1992 and 1994. Subjects were re-evaluated at five and ten years after enrollment.

At ten years, 1,952 subjects were re-assessed. After controlling for age, gender and other risk factors, statin use was found to have a protective effect for any type of cataract, with a hazard ratio of 0.52.

The hazard ratio for incident nuclear cataracts was 0.66 and for cortical cataracts it was 0.76, but these figures did not reach statistical significance. The risk of posterior subcapsular cataract appeared to be increased with statin use, with a hazard ratio was 1.47, but Dr. Tan's team found this increase was not statistically significant, either.

While risk of subtypes of cataracts related to statin use did not reach significance, the overall risk reduction for all cataracts was "likely driven by the protective but nonsignificant associations between statin use and cortical or nuclear cataract," the investigators surmise.

They conclude: "Because a protective influence from statins on cataract could have potentially important health care implications, this relationship needs confirmation and exploration."