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Eye doctors: Quit smoking, save sight

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. eye doctors say they have found another reason to decide to quit smoking for the New Year -- saving vision.

The ophthalmologists at the University of California-Los Angeles find even in women age 80 and older, smoking continues to increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration -- a disease damaging the center of the retina that can prevent reading, driving and recognizing faces, and the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

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The researchers found smokers had 11 percent higher rates of the disease than other women their same age. Smokers over age 80 were 5.5 times more likely to develop the disease than women their age who did not smoke.

"The take-home message is that it's never too late to quit smoking," Dr. Anne Coleman, the study's lead author, said in a statement. "We found that even older people's eyes will benefit from kicking the habit."

Coleman and colleagues followed a group of 1,958 women who underwent retinal photographs at five-year intervals. Seventy-five of the women -- 4 percent -- smoked and the researchers compared retinal images at ages 78 and 83 to evaluate whether smoking affected the women's likelihood of developing the disease compared with non-smokers.

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The findings are to be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

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