"Toasted Skin Syndrome" caused by laptops, study says

Swiss researchers say prolonged contact with a hot computer can result in "sponge-patterned" skin discoloration

Published October 4, 2010 11:05PM (EDT)

"Toasted Skin Syndrome" (© Ap)
"Toasted Skin Syndrome" (© Ap)

In case you didn't know: Your skin doesn't like being pressed against things that are hot. And laptops, for all their wonder, get extremly hot. After long periods of use their batteries, optical drives, ventilation fans and various internal mechanisms can generate temperatures between 110 and 150 degrees Farenheit. People often place these laptops (as the name suggests) on their laps for hours at a time, every day, to negative effects.

A recently published study by Swiss researchers shows that prolonged exposure to a baking laptop can result in what doctors call "toasted skin syndrome." In one instance, a 12-year-old boy developed a "sponge-patterned" discoloration on his left thigh. It was later discovered that for several months he participated in daily, hours-long computer-game sessions. In 2007, a Virginia law student suffered similar skin patches that left doctors stumped -- until they learned she worked six hours a day with a computer propped on her lap. These are two of 10 laptop related cases reported in the last six years, so there's no immediate need for telethons.  But with the growing number of kids opting for "World of Warcraft" instead of outdoor activity, "toasted skin syndrome" could be an imminent epidemic, alongside obesity.

Dr. Kimberly Salkey, who treated the Virginia law student, says "toasted" skin cells resemble skin cells with long-term sun damage.  The skin darkening, researchers say, is harmless but can be permanent and in rare cases can cause damage leading to skin cancer.

The lesson: Don't let hot stuff touch your skin. Place your laptop on your desk. Budding epidemic solved.

By Chris Le


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