Continuous long-term monitoring of UV radiation in professional mountain guides reveals extremely high exposure



Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is estimated to be one of the most important risk factors for nonmelanoma and melanoma skin cancers. High occupational UV exposure is assumed to be associated with skin cancer. Mountain guides receive considerable UV doses due to altitude-related increase of UVR and reflection from snow- and ice-covered surfaces. The aim of our study was to assess the annual occupational UV exposure of mountain guides. Spore film test chambers containing spores of Bacillus subtilis (VioSpor) were used as UV dosimeters with a spectral sensitivity profile similar to erythema-weighted data calculated from spectroradiometric measurements. Nine mountain guide instructors carried dosimeters on the sides of their heads on a total of 1,406 working days during one year (July 1999–June 2000). Dosimeters were changed monthly. Measurements of 92 months could be evaluated (4–12 months/mountain guide). The mean individual monthly UV exposure was 107 standard erythema doses (SED) (median 71 SED; range 10–505 SED). The mean annual cumulative UV exposure was 1,097 SED (median 1,273 SED; range 312–1,770 SED) per mountain guide. The mean UV dose per day (4–10 hr) was 6.6 SED (median 5.7 SED; range 0.6–24.2 SED). This is the second study of continuous annual UV dosimetry in a cohort of outdoor workers. Our study showed that it is not sufficient to interpolate annual UV exposure from a few days' measurements. Only long-term dosimetry can give reliable yearly information of UVR load. Median daily UV exposure exceeded limits for UV radiation (e.g., ACGIH effective dose 30 J/m2 per 8 hr period corresponding to 1.08 SED/day) 6-fold; maximal exposure exceeded these limits 23-fold. These extremely high exposure values are suggestive for an increased risk of skin cancer and thorough epidemiologic studies in the collectives of professional and recreational mountaineering are required. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.