Cataractogenesis is a widely reported late effect that is observed in patients receiving total-body irradiation (TBI) prior to bone marrow transplantation or radiotherapy for ocular or head and neck cancers. Recent studies indicate that estrogens may protect against age-related and drug-induced cataracts. Moreover, other reports suggest that estrogen possesses antioxidant properties. Since the effect of estrogen on radiation cataractogenesis is unknown, we wished to determine whether estrogen modulates radiation-induced opacification of the lens. Intact or ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with either 17-β-estradiol or an empty silastic capsule. The right orbit was then irradiated with either 10 or 15 Gy of 60Co γ rays using a Leksell Gamma Knife, and lenses were examined at various times post-irradiation with a slit lamp or evaluated for light transmission. We found that for ovariectomized rats irradiated with 15 Gy, the lens opacity and the incidence of cataract formation in the estradiol-treated group were significantly increased compared to the control group at the end of the 25-week period of observation. Cataract incidence was also high in irradiated eyes of ovary-intact animals at 25 weeks postirradiation but was greatly reduced in the ovariectomized control group, with less than half of irradiated eyes showing evidence of cataractogenesis. Thus, after irradiation with 15 Gy of γ rays, estrogen increased the incidence of cataract formation. We also observed that although the incidence of cataract formation in rats irradiated with 10 Gy and receiving continuous estrogen treatment was not altered compared to rats in the control group that did not receive estrogen, the latent period for posterior subcapsular cataract formation decreased and the severity of the anterior cataract increased. Taken together, our data suggest that estrogen accelerates progression of radiation-induced opacification.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging