Background/Purpose: The accumulation of fluorophores in the ocular lens with age might be caused by ultraviolet solar radiation (UVR) exposure, but evidence of a relation between individual cumulative UVR exposure and lens autofluorescence is lacking. Individually determined UVR exposure has never before been related to lens autofluorescence, and the aim of this study was to investigate if ocular lens blue autofluorescence can be used as a biological UVR dosimeter.
Methods: Ocular lens autofluorescence was quantified in vivo by fluorescence spectroscopy in 145 volunteers (108 healthy subjects, 18 with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 19 with cutaneous malignant melanoma (MM)). The excitation wavelength was 350 nm and the fluorescence emission was 450 nm. Individual UVR exposure data were collected both retrospectively and prospectively using questionnaires and electronic personal UVR dosimeters.
Results: Lens blue autofluorescence increased significantly with age (P=0.01), and females had significantly higher autofluorescence than males (P=0.024); the two factors explained 10% of the total variation in lens autofluorescence. Neither smoking habits nor use of glasses/contact lenses or sunglasses influenced autofluorescence. No correlations between autofluorescence and UVR exposure measurements were found, and neither was there a difference in autofluorescence between groups with high and low UVR exposure (P-values>0.1), respectively. MM patients had significantly (P=0.019) higher autofluorescence than healthy subjects when age and sex differences were taken into account; no such difference (P=0.097) was detected between BCC patients and healthy subjects.
Conclusion: The results indicate that age and gender only play a minor role in the level of lens blue autofluorescence. Exposure to UVR has been suggested to be responsible for a part of the age-related increase in autofluorescence, but this could not be confirmed in this study. The higher level of lens autofluorescence found in MM patients might be due to genetics rather than higher cumulative UVR exposure. In conclusion, ocular lens blue autofluorescence cannot be used as a biological UVR dosimeter.