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Ultraviolet Sunlight Exposure Assessment

A comparison of alternative exposure assessment methods

Sun exposure has been associated with skin cancer as well as potential protection against various other cancers. Few studies have examined alternative methods to retrospectively assess exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), particularly for women whose outdoor behavior patterns likely differ from those of men. DCEG investigators initiated a small pilot study to explore questionnaire-based UV exposure patterns and assessment methods. For one week, participants were asked to keep a diary of outdoor activities during 9am-5pm, while simultaneously wearing a personal UV dosimeter. The subjects subsequently completed surveys on their recollection of time outdoors during the study week and during their lifetime. This feasibility study was designed to evaluate patterns of outdoor behavior and the validity and reproducibility of alternative assessment methods for a one-week period, as well as the reproducibility of alternative methods of assessing lifetime sun exposure. In their evaluation of the reproducibility of hour-based and activity-based measures of lifetime UV exposure, investigators found that the activity-based approach was more reproducible during adult ages and over the lifetime, primarily due to the reports of women. (Yu CL et al. Assessment of lifetime cumulative sun exposure using a self-administered questionnaire: reliability of two approaches. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009; 18: 464-7).

Investigators are also assessing the choice of non-questionnaire surrogates for individual exposure to UVR. To guide the choice of surrogates for long-term UVR exposure, they are examining how well stable sun-related individual characteristics, such as skin sun-sensitivity, and environmental/climatic factors predict daily personal UVR exposure measurements as measured by these personal UVR dosimeters.

For more information, contact D. Michal Freedman.