Heavy laptop users risk toasted skin syndrome from intense heat

laptop users risk toasted skin syndrome

Toasted skin syndrome, which could lead to skin cancers, is one of many conditions showing up in medical journals related to excessive laptop use. Image: CC Looking Glass/Flickr

“Toasted skin syndrome” is the latest hazard to be revealed for video game addicts and assorted computer geeks. Toasted skin syndrome, a condition usually suffered by foundry workers or glass blowers, is mottled discoloration caused by prolonged exposure to heat. A case involving a boy who developed toasted skin syndrome playing video games on a laptop for hours on end has drawn attention to the condition, which could lead to skin cancer.

Laptops trigger toasted skin syndrome

Toasted skin syndrome is a risk computer users face when they set a laptop on top of their thighs for prolonged periods. In a recent case, CBS News reports that a 12-year-old boy came to his doctor with “sponge-patterned” skin on his left thigh. He had played computer games a few hours daily for many months. Another recent case involves a law student who sought treatment for mottled skin on her leg. The student’s physician, Dr. Kimberley Salkey, diagnosed toasted skin syndrome after learning that she studied about six hours a day with her computer sitting in her lap. The temperature under the laptop was measured at 125 degrees.

Skin cancer from excessive laptop use

Until now, toasted skin syndrome was documented in workers who toil around intense heat. Salkey told the Associated Press that toasted skin looks like skin damaged by prolonged sun exposure under a microscope. Toasted skin syndrome can also be caused by overuse of heating pads that aren’t hot enough to burn. It’s considered harmless, save for skin discoloration. However, Swiss researchers who published an article about toasted skin syndrome in the medical journal Pediatrics said that the condition can cause damage that leads to skin cancers.

Laptop heat shield recommended

The Swiss researchers did not mention any skin cancer cases in the Pediatrics article. But they suggested placing a carrying case or something else to act as a laptop heat shield. Major computer makers publish warnings in user manuals about risk stemming from the heat generated by laptops. In the same report, published on Yahoo News, the Associated Press said toasted skin syndrome is one of 10 cases linked to laptops appearing in medical journals since 2004, including the risk of decreased sperm production from elevated scrotum temperatures.

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