The cell cycle kinetics of 93 specimens of pterygial tissue, as well as 19 specimens of normal conjunctiva, from patients at three sites representing three different latitudes (Singapore, 1 degree; Hong Kong, 22 degrees; and Little Rock, Arkansas, 34 degrees) were evaluated by flow cytometry. The results showed no difference in cellular proliferation patterns between pterygial and conjunctival tissue at any of the sites, suggesting that pterygium is not a disorder of excess cellular proliferation. Transmission electron microscopy showed extracellular matrix to be a prominent component of pterygium. Cellular proliferation patterns of primary and recurrent pterygium were not significantly different from each other. Factors associated with increased incidence of pterygium included male sex, outdoor occupation, and advanced age.