BACKGROUND: Due to the predicted age shift of the population an increase in the number of patients with late AMD is expected. At present smoking represents the only modifiable risk factor. Supplementation of antioxidants in patients at risk is the sole effective pharmacological prevention. The aim of this study is to estimate the future epidemiological development of late AMD in Switzerland and to quantify the potential effects of smoking and antioxidants supplementation. METHODS: The modelling of the future development of late AMD cases in Switzerland was based on a meta-analysis of the published data on AMD-prevalence and on published Swiss population development scenarios until 2050. Three different scenarios were compared: low, mean and high. The late AMD cases caused by smoking were calculated using the "population attributable fraction" formula and data on the current smoking habits of the Swiss population. The number of potentially preventable cases was estimated using the data of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). RESULTS: According to the mean population development scenario, late AMD cases in Switzerland will rise from 37 200 cases in 2005 to 52 500 cases in 2020 and to 93 200 cases in 2050. Using the "low" and the "high" scenarios the late AMD cases may range from 49 500 to 56 000 in 2020 and from 73 700 to 118 400 in 2050, respectively. Smoking is responsible for approximately 7 % of all late AMD cases, i. e., 2600 cases in 2005, 3800 cases in 2020, 6600 cases in 2050 ("mean scenario"). With future antioxidant supplementation to all patients at risk another 3100 cases would be preventable until 2020 and possibly 23 500 cases until 2050. CONCLUSION: Due to age shift in the population a 2.5-fold increase in late AMD cases until 2050 is expected, representing a socioeconomic challenge. Cessation of smoking and supplementation of antioxidants to all patients at risk has the potential to reduce this number. Unfortunately, public awareness is low. These data may support health-care providers and public opinion leaders when developing public education and prevention strategies.