Home of P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for PTERYGIUM®

Why do we not wear sunglasses?

How much do people know about sunlight exposure and eye cancer, cataracts and pterygium. Why do they not wear sunglasses?

Sunburn increases your risk of cancer of the eye

If your skin burns and you develop skin cancer later on,  can your eye also develop cancer because of exposure to the sun?   Yes, cancer on the eye surface is strongly related to sunlight exposure!

Too much sun can also result in cataracts in adults which is one of the most common causes of global blindness.

Eye cancer in left eye
of this 40 year old woman

Deadly melanoma

So why are children and adults not protecting their eyes from the sun?

Well like most things that we do not know, it comes down to educating all of the public but particularly the young.

Until the media started running with the issue of the greenhouse gases, or the need for climate control, it just wasn’t on everyone’s agenda and so it went unnoticed. Therefore our researchers wanted to find out if this was the case with the public’s knowledge of the effects of sunlight on the eyes.

Five hundred adults in Brisbane were interviewed on their knowledge of the sun and the eyes and what we found shocked us.

The level of ignorance about this relationship was profound and worst amongst those at greatest risk….outdoor workers. So it was not a surprise that they were not protecting themselves. Only 78% of the participants wore sunglasses for more than 10% of the time they were outdoors. When asked why they wore sunglasses it was generally to reduce glare, while very few had any idea that they also provided protection against eye diseases.

Sunglasses: a luxury or a necessity?

Nineteen percent of all participants never wore sunglasses and when asked to explain why they did not wear sunglasses, 17% found them inconvenient to wear, 17% thought they were unnecessary and 14% because they were uncomfortable.

 Segment of population

worn regularly 

worn irregularly 
never worn
 Age group 41-50  49%  28%  23%
 Main work outdoors  49%  31%  20%

Well if adults knew so little about why sunglasses should be worn, then what about adolescents (who of course know everything better than adults!  ….. didn’t we all?)

It turns out they did do better than adults with most having a moderate knowledge of sun and the eye although they were all better informed about the effects of sun on the skin than on the eye. “Hats off!” to the Slip, Slap, Slop campaign by Education Departments and Cancer Councils.  Probably a poor choice of terms…the hats should stay firmly on.

Although 71% of the adolescents owned sunglasses, most of them (81%) only wore them occasionally.

Sunglasses: fashion statement or protection?


Speaking from personal experience, my children wanted Oakleys, Raybans, or other expensive sunnies when Cancer Councils’ sunglasses provide equal protection. But loss and breakage are a constant problem so sunglasses from the Cancer Council or similarly reasonably priced sunglasses will provide equal protection.

Just as most people now recognise that excessive sun on the skin is not good, so we hope that in the years to come, they will also acknowledge that too much sun on the eyes is a bad mix.