Importance: Myopia is becoming increasingly common globally and is associated with potentially sight-threatening complications. Spending time outdoors is protective, but the mechanism underlying this association is poorly understood.
Objective: To examine the association of myopia with ultraviolet B radiation (UVB; directly associated with time outdoors and sunlight exposure), serum vitamin D concentrations, and vitamin D pathway genetic variants, adjusting for years in education.
Design, Setting, and Participants: A cross-sectional, population-based random sample of participants 65 years and older was chosen from 6 study centers from the European Eye Study between November 6, 2000, to November 15, 2002. Of 4187 participants, 4166 attended an eye examination including refraction, gave a blood sample, and were interviewed by trained fieldworkers using a structured questionnaire. Myopia was defined as a mean spherical equivalent of -0.75 diopters or less. Exclusion criteria included aphakia, pseudophakia, late age-related macular degeneration, and vision impairment due to cataract, resulting in 371 participants with myopia and 2797 without.
Exposures: Exposure to UVB estimated by combining meteorological and questionnaire data at different ages, single-nucleotide polymorphisms in vitamin D metabolic pathway genes, serum vitamin D3 concentrations, and years of education.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Odds ratios (ORs) of UVB, serum vitamin D3 concentrations, vitamin D single-nucleotide polymorphisms, and myopia estimated from logistic regression.
Result: Of the included 3168 participants, the mean (SD) age was 72.4 (5) years, and 1456 (46.0%) were male. An SD increase in UVB exposure at age 14 to 19 years (OR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.71-0.92) and 20 to 39 years (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.62-0.93) was associated with a reduced adjusted OR of myopia; those in the highest tertile of years of education had twice the OR of myopia (OR, 2.08; 95% CI, 1.41-3.06). No independent associations between myopia and serum vitamin D3 concentrations nor variants in genes associated with vitamin D metabolism were found. An unexpected finding was that the highest quintile of plasma lutein concentrations was associated with a reduced OR of myopia (OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.46-0.72).
Conclusions and Relevance: Increased UVB exposure was associated with reduced myopia, particularly in adolescence and young adulthood. The association was not altered by adjusting for education. We found no convincing evidence for a direct role of vitamin D in myopia risk. The relationship between high plasma lutein concentrations and a lower risk of myopia requires replication.