About the programme
What is solar UV radiation?
What do we know?
Unanswered questions
Research publications
Research roadmap for SA
NRF Solar UV Radiation Symposium 2012
Research instrumentation
Organisations involved
Students and projects
Tools for Schools
Upcoming events
Useful links

What do we know?

What do we know about solar UV radiation and related health effects in South Africa?

In South Africa, some sun exposure-related research has been carried out. This research has focussed on measuring, modelling and analysing the ambient solar UV radiation and ozone environment; personal solar UV radiation dosimetry; the epidemiology of skin cancer; and people's sun behaviour and sun protection. Related work has been on sunscreen chemistry, plant solar UV radiation exposure, personal use of photochromic eyeglass lenses and treatment of cancer using photodynamic therapy.

A database of published research articles has been initiated and applicable contributions are welcome.

Personal solar UV radiation dosimetry research

Too much exposure to solar UV radiation is one of the few readily modifiable skin cancer risk factors, and exposure during childhood and adolescence is implicated in skin cancer developing.

The amount of solar UV radiation reaching the ground is not the same as what reaches a person. This depends on whether the person is sitting, lying down, or standing and moving around. Also, whether the person is in full sun or in the shade and if they are using sun protection, i.e. hat, clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.

In South Africa, three previous studies have looked at how much solar UV radiation South Africans may be exposed to. In 2000, a health risk assessment calculated how much solar UV radiation a child, an indoor worker, and an outdoor worker living in Durban were likely to be exposed to during one year. Results suggested that children were highly susceptible to getting sunburnt during peak UV radiation hours (two hours around midday) since school break times often occur during these hours. Also, an outdoor worker, such as a car guard, was identified as being at highest risk for developing non-melanoma skin cancer.

In 2001, special film called polysulphone was used to measure the daily solar UV radiation exposure of schoolchildren and teenagers in Durban. This film degrades in sunlight and mimics the reaction of human skin when it is sunburnt. Some of the children who wore the badges experienced very high exposure levels. The most important factor was the activity that they were doing, for example, swimming and running.

Polysulphone film was also attached to a mannequin to try and determine which parts of the body are most likely to experience sunburn. For an unprotected human body, the top of the head and the shoulders were the body parts most at risk. The nose, tips of the ears and forehead were also risk areas.