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More than half of Australians are oblivious to the damage inflicted by UV rays on their eyes because they mistakenly believe only the midday sun is dangerous.

A survey by the Optometrists Association Australia (OAA) revealed almost 60 per cent of Australians believe it is only the midday sun that poses the greatest UV threat to their eyes.

However, UV exposure to the eye before 10am and after 2pm can sometimes be higher than during the middle of the day, but only 10 per cent of Australians are aware of this.

"It is not only the direct sun on a fine, clear cloudless day in summer that can cause damage," said OAA spokesman Andrew Hogan.

Accumulative sun damage to the eyes can cause eye lid cancer or pterygia, a common growth over the white part of the eye, as well as macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in Australia.

The survey of 1000 respondents also found those living in the nation's sunniest regions are unaware when UV rays are at their strongest.

In the Northern Territory, 89 per cent believe that the midday sun is the deadliest, compared to 64 per cent in Queensland.

Those who were conscious of sun damage also had lax attitudes about their eyes.

Only 11 per cent admitted they had never considered the effects of sun exposure to their eyes or never regarded it as dangerous.

Around one third of those surveyed considered the Eye Protection Factor (EPF) rating of lenses when choosing sunglasses.

This was despite the fact that almost 50 per cent said protection from UV rays was their foremost reason for wearing sunglasses.