• Written By: Michael G. Haas, MD
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology

    This prospective, population-based study showed a reduced risk of late wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in mothers who breastfeed their children. Breastfeeding for three to four months per child helped, with the most significant reduction in risk in those who breastfed for at least six months per child.

    To the best of the authors' knowledge, no prior study has examined the association between breastfeeding and AMD, and these results need confirmation in other studies. However, the results are in line with studies showing that breastfeeding by mothers protects against diseases later in life, such as breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

    Part of the Tromsø Study conducted in Norway, the population of the current study included 1,512 women between the ages of 65 and 87 years. Forty-eight of them (3.2 percent) had late AMD and 378 (25 percent) had at least one large drusen >125 μm.

    Length of breastfeeding per child was significantly associated with reduced risk of maternal late AMD in multivariable regression analysis. However, the authors found no associations between late AMD or drusen >125 μm and contraceptives, oral hormonal replacement therapy, parity, age at first childbirth, age of menarche, age of menopause, number of menstruating years or the reason for menopause.  

    The authors hypothesize that breastfeeding may reduce the cardiovascular risk profile, which in turn results in protection against AMD. They say the finding in this study is important because it shows that late AMD may possibly be influenced by exposure to risk factors that occur during early adulthood.