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Number of incident cases of the main eye diseases of ageing in the UK Biobank cohort, projected over a 25-year period from time of recruitment
  1. Parul Desai1,
  2. Darwin C Minassian2,3,
  3. Angela Reidy2,
  4. Naomi Allen4,5,
  5. Cathie Sudlow4,6
  1. 1 Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 EpiVision, Penn, UK
  3. 3 UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK
  4. 4 UK Biobank, Stockport, UK
  5. 5 Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  6. 6 Centre for Medical Informatics, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Parul Desai; parul.desai{at}


Objectives To estimate the number of new cases of age-related macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma accruing in the UK Biobank cohort, over a period of 25 years from time of recruitment. Our secondary objective was to assess the statistical power of nested case–control studies of these eye diseases. We aimed to provide quantitative information relevant to UK Biobank’s eye disease case ascertainment efforts and to the potential for UK Biobank-based research into the causes of eye disease.

Methods We constructed a Markov discrete-time state transition model to simulate the population dynamics of the eye disorders within the UK Biobank cohort, using prevalence data from population-based epidemiological studies to derive incidence, and Office for National Statistics data on mortality and migration overseas.

Results By 2023, >900 new cases of each of ‘wet’ (neovascular) and ‘dry’ age-related macular degeneration, >1200 cases of primary open angle glaucoma and almost 15 000 cases of cataracts are expected to have accrued in the subcohort of 68 500 participants who had ocular assessment at baseline, with around seven times as many cases of each disease in the whole cohort of 500 000 participants. These predicted incident case numbers generate good or substantial statistical power for a range of nested case–control studies of potential genetic, lifestyle and environmental determinants of disease.

Conclusions Over the next few years, UK Biobank is expected to generate sufficient numbers of new cases for statistically well-powered studies of the determinants of the major causes of sight loss: age-related macular degeneration, vision-impairing cataract and glaucoma.

  • epidemiology
  • public health

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  • Contributors PD, DCM, AR: conception and design of the work, methodology, analysis and interpretation of data, and preparation of the manuscript. CS, NA: contributed to the acquisition and interpretation of data, and review and preparation of the manuscript.

  • Funding The study was funded by a grant from the UK Biobank to Moorfields Eye Hospital R&D Directorate.

  • Competing interests DCM and AR received grant funding from UK Biobank for this work. NA is Senior Epidemiologist for UK Biobank and receives support from UKB for some of her academic time. CS is UK Biobank’s Chief Scientist and receives support from UKB for some of her academic time. She is a member of the Steering Group for the Dementias Platform UK and leads on its outcomes adjudication. She also receives some funding from the Scottish Funding Council.

  • Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The data used in this work are from the UK Biobank. All other data sources used for the modelling are in the public domain: ONS or from peer-reviewed literature. No unpublished data were used.

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