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Have You Ever Heard of Toasted Skin Syndrome?

Posted: October 5, 2010

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Dr. Salkey, an assistant dermatology professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, said that under the microscope, the affected skin resembles skin damaged by long-term sun exposure. Major manufacturers including Apple, Hewlett Packard and Dell warn in user manuals against placing laptops on laps or exposed skin for extended periods of time because of the risk for burns.

A medical report several years ago found that men who used laptops on their laps had elevated scrotum temperatures. If prolonged, that kind of heat can decrease sperm production, which can potentially lead to infertility. Whether laptop use itself can cause that kind of harm hasn't been confirmed. In the past, "toasted skin syndrome" has occurred in workers whose jobs require being close to a heat source, including bakers and glass blowers, and, before central heating, in people who huddled near potbellied stoves to stay warm.

Anthony J. Mancini, MD, dermatology chief at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said he'd treated a boy who developed the condition from using a heating pad "hours at a time" to soothe a thigh injured in soccer. Mancini said he'd also seen a case caused by a hot water bottle. He noted that chronic, prolonged skin inflammation can potentially increase chances for squamous cell skin cancer, which is more aggressive than the most common skin cancer. But Mancini said it's unlikely computer use would lead to cancer since it's so easy to avoid prolonged close skin contact with laptops.

By Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press, October 4, 2010