New Biomarker Measures Sun Exposure To the Eye

Prof. David Mackey Centre for Ophthalmology and Vision Science/Lions Eye Institute Perth Managing Director/Chair of University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia Centre for Eye Research Australia, Melbourne UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. David Mackey

Centre for Ophthalmology and Vision Science/Lions Eye Institute Perth
Managing Director/Chair of University of Western Australia,
Perth, Australia
Centre for Eye Research Australia, Melbourne University

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Prof. Mackey: Too much or too little sun? Excessive sun exposure is associated with the eye disease pterygium, while lack of outdoor activity in childhood increases the risk of myopia (short sightedness).

Measuring the amount of early sun damage to a person’s eyes would be of great use to researchers and potential use in clinical practice.

Over the last few years we have developed a biomarker for sun exposure to the eye by photographing Conjunctival UV Auto-Fluorescence (CUVAF).

The study published in JAMA Ophthalmology looked at the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to CUVAF levels in three Australian studies from Tasmania, Perth and Brisbane.

People who live in sunnier environments closer to the equator have more evidence of sun damage using CUVAF.  However, genetic factors also play a role.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Prof. Mackey: We don’t yet know the optimal recommendations for outdoor exposure in children to prevent myopia or to prevent pterygium.

Further research will be needed to quantify this and the level of eye protection needed.

CUVAF appears a useful tool in grading the level of sun exposure in young adults.

MedicalResearch What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Prof. Mackey: Research to prevent pterygium and other sun damage to the eyes has been minimal in the past. CUVAF and the genetic associations may help us understand the mechanism of initiating pterygium.

As studies are underway to increase outdoor activity as a way of preventing myopia in Asian children, we need to monitor this so as to make sure that we are not increasing the risk of pterygium.

CUVAF will be a useful tool in this work.

Citation:

 Yazar S, Cuellar-Partida G, McKnight CM, et al. Genetic and Environmental Factors in Conjunctival UV Autofluorescence. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online January 15, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2014.5627.