In an age filled with technological advances only dreamed about two decades ago, the human species has joined together as a global community connected by the internet. With the advent of inexpensive laptops, computers can and are taken everywhere. Why sit at an uncomfortable desk when you can sprawl out in bed with your laptop balanced on your legs? Medical professionals can answer this question as a new laptop related medical condition has come to the forefront of the technological age: Toasted Leg Syndrome!
There’s no medical mystery to this condition, at least to those who know the symptoms. Recently, a 12-year-old boy had developed a blotchy, discolored area on his left thigh after playing a new video game on his laptop for a few months. While the young man was able to deduce that the disfigurement was in the same location as the hottest part of his laptop, he didn’t put two and two together. In another case, a Virginia woman went to her doctor with a similar problem on her leg. Dr. Kimberley Salkey, the treating physician, was perplexed at the skin discoloration. She only realized what was happening after she discovered that the young lady in question spent six hours a day using an overheated laptop, propped up on her legs.
So how bad could a little overheating from a laptop be? Dermatologists examining this condition under a microscope say that the distressed area resembles skin severely damaged by the sun. While many manufacturers now issue warnings in their laptop’s user manuals regarding the placement of laptops on exposed skin, most people simply ignore them. Is “toasted skin syndrome” really a 21st Century ailment? The answer is no.
This condition started a long time ago. The first cases of this problem started when the heating pad was invented. Prolonged exposure to heating pads can cause this type of burn. People who work around certain heat sources have also been known to have developed this problem. From bakers to glass blowers, anyone working around concentrated sources of heat is susceptible to the damage. If it was only a case of a mild burn, the medical community wouldn’t be so concerned. There’s a bigger problem with overexposure to continual, concentrated heat and that problem is cancer.
The problem with long term exposure to a laptop’s heat source is its similarity to overexposure to the sun. Both can lead to squamous cell skin cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer. While it would require a great deal of long term exposure to contract this type of cancer from a laptop’s heat source, there are some individuals who spend the better part of the day with a laptop on their knees. These groups of people are primarily children and teenagers who often use laptops for 8 to 10 hours at a time. While it may seem farfetched that someone could spend enough time on a laptop to develop skin cancer, think about the mathematics.
A typical teenager, or adult writer fascinated by his laptop, spends 5 hours a day online. Multiple this number by 365 days and the picture becomes clearer. The answer is 1825 hours per year. That is the equivalent of roughly 76 days of 24 hour a day, nonstop exposure. In a world in which we spend less and less time outdoors, our skin is becoming more sensitive to heat in general. Add the weakening ozone layer, allowing the sun to further damage our skin when we are outside, and the picture gets even clearer.
While the technological revolution sweeps the world up in its advancements, we face new health issues that haven’t even been studied. While civilization has been around for over 2,000 years, technology is still in its relative infancy. This means the long term repercussions will not be known for many years. The next time you snicker at the notion of cell phones causing cancer, think again. It will take another ten years of studies before we have an absolute answer to that debate. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome anyone?