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Photochem Photobiol. 2004 Jan;79(1):40-7.

Modeling the anatomical distribution of sunlights.

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA.


One of the major technical challenges in calculating solar irradiance on the human form has been the complexity of the surface geometry (i.e. the surface-normal vis-a-vis the incident radiation). Over 80% of skin cancers occur on the face, head, neck and back of the hands. The quantification, as well as the mapping of the anatomical distribution of solar radiation on the human form, is essential if we are to study the etiology of skin cancers or cataracts or immune system suppression. Using advances in computer graphics, including high-resolution three-dimensional mathematical representations of the human form, the calculation of irradiance has been attained to subcentimeter precision. Lighting detail included partitioning of direct beam and diffuse skylight, shadowing effects and gradations of model surface illumination depending on model surface geometry and incident light angle. With the incorporation of ray-tracing and irradiance algorithms, the results are not only realistic renderings but also accurate representations of the distribution of light on the subject model. The calculation of light illumination at various receptor points across the anatomy provides information about differential radiant exposure as a function of subject posture, orientation relative to the sun and sun elevation. The integration of a geodesic sun-tracking model into the lighting module enabled simulation of specific sun exposure scenarios, with instantaneous irradiance, as well as the cumulative radiant exposure, calculated for a given latitude, date, time of day and duration. Illustration of instantaneous irradiance or cumulative radiant exposure is achieved using a false-color rendering--mapping light intensity to color--creating irradiance or exposure isopleths. This approach may find application in the determination of the reduction in exposure that one achieves by wearing a hat, shirt or sunglasses. More fundamentally, such an analysis tool could provide improved estimates of scenario-specific dose (i.e. absorbed radiant exposure) needed to develop dose-response functions for sunlight-induced disease.

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