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Editor—The prevalence of myopia varies widely.1-3 In western Europe and the United States the prevalence of myopia is estimated as 10-25%, while in parts of Asia the prevalence is often much higher.4-9 High myopia (usually defined as a refractive error ⩾−6.00 D) has a prevalence of 0.5-2.5% in western Europe and the USA and is second only to diabetes as the most common cause of blindness in the working age population.2 10 11 Here, to distinguish it from high myopia, myopia <−6.00 D will be referred to as “low myopia”.
There is compelling evidence that both environmental and genetic factors are involved in the aetiology of myopia.12 An influential series of population studies by Younget al 13 14 reported a dramatic increase in the prevalence of myopia in the generation of Alaskan Eskimos first exposed to compulsory education and a “westernised” environment during their childhood. Independent population studies targeting other isolated communities that had been exposed to similar changes in environment corroborated these findings15 16Parent-offspring heritability estimates in these studies were generally low (table 1), while sib-sib heritability was usually high, suggesting that environmental factors had dominated any influence of genetics in determining refractive error. Dominance of environmental factors over genetic factors is also evident in “form deprivation” myopia. This condition develops when visual clarity is severely compromised during a critical period of postnatal development.17-20
The genetic contribution towards the development of myopia has been investigated in both population studies (table 1) and twin studies (table 2), and has been reviewed previously.12 21 While these investigations have suggested that myopia is genetically determined to some extent, there has been no consensus of opinion regarding whether or not myopia has different aetiological causes, …