Has the Sun Protection Campaign in Australia Reduced the Need for Pterygium Surgery Nationally?

Louis J. Stevenson, David A. Mackey, Gareth Lingham, Alex Burton, Holly Brown, Emily Huynh, Irene J. Tan, Maria Franchina, Paul G. Sanfilippo, Seyhan Yazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: The Slip! Slop! Slap! Sunsmart safety campaign was an Australian initiative implemented in the 1980s. To assess this campaign’s effect on pterygium, we examined the rate of pterygium surgery across Australia and described the prevalence and associations of pterygium in Perth, Australia’s sunniest capital city. Methods: The rate of pterygium surgery was examined using Australian Medicare data. A cross-sectional analysis of the Generation 1 (Gen1) cohort of the Raine Study was performed to investigate the prevalence of pterygium in Perth. We investigated the association between pterygium and conjunctival ultraviolet autofluorescence (CUVAF) area, an objective biomarker of sun exposure, and demographics and health variables derived from a detailed questionnaire. Results: Between 1994 and 2017, the rate of Medicare funded pterygium surgery in Western Australia fell 11%, well below the national average decline of 47%. Of the 1049 Gen1 Raine Study participants, 994 (571 females; mean age 56.7 years, range = 40.9–81.7) were included in the analysis. The lifetime prevalence of pterygium was 8.4% (n = 83). A higher prevalence of pterygium was associated with outdoor occupation (p-trend = 0.007), male sex (p-trend 0.01) and increasing CUVAF area (p-value <0.001). Conclusions: The effect of Australia’s Slip! Slop! Slap! Sunsmart safety campaign on pterygium been mixed. Since 1994, the rate of private pterygium surgery has declined significantly in all Australian states except Western Australia. Perth, Western Australia, has the highest pterygium prevalence of any mainland-Australian cohort. Higher CUVAF area, male sex, and outdoor occupation were associated with an increased risk of pterygium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalOphthalmic Epidemiology
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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