UV Doses Worldwide


  • Posted on the website on 7 April 2005

  • This paper is dedicated to the memory of Frederick Urbach, M.D., a renowned dermatologist and pioneering photobiologist; he won the prestigious Finsen Medal of the Association of Internationale de Photobiologie and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society for Photobiology (deceased July 2004 at the age of 82).

*To whom correspondence should be addressed: Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration, 9200 Corporate Boulevard (HFZ-120), Rockville, MD 20850, USA. Fax: 301-796-9826; e-mail: DEG@CDRH.FDA.GOV


UV radiation affects human health. Human exposure to UV radiation causes a few beneficial health effects like vitamin D3 formation but it causes many detrimental health effects: sunburn, ocular damage, photoaging, immune suppression, DNA damage and skin cancer. In countries with fair-skinned populations, skin cancer is the most diagnosed of all cancers. In the United States in 2002, there were over one million new skin cancer cases. That means one out of every 285 people got skin cancer. Skin cancer of fair-skinned individuals is increasing at an alarming rate (4–6% per year) around the world and has now reached so-called “pandemic” proportions. Thus, it is important to know what UV doses people around the world get throughout their lives. This review covers how the outdoor UV doses are weighted for different biological effects, the most commonly used measuring devices for terrestrial and personal UV doses, the natural and other effects on terrestrial and personal UV doses, the time people spend outside, their ambient exposures and the terrestrial and personal UV doses of adult outdoor and indoor workers as well as children and adolescents around the world. Overall, outdoor-working adults get about 10%, while indoor-working adults and children get about 3% (2–4%) of the total available annual UV (on a horizontal plane). People's UV doses increase with increasing altitude and decreasing latitude; most indoor-working adult Europeans get 10 000–20 000 J/m2 per year, Americans get 20 000–30 000 J/m2 per year and Australians are estimated to get 20 000–50 000 J/m2 per year (excluding vacation, which can increase the dose by 30% or more).