‘Toasted Skin Syndrome’ Caused by Laptops

A report published recently in the peer-reviewed medical journal Pediatrics said researchers have documented nine cases of skin discoloration and one burn case due to the use of laptops placed on laps. The condition is called toasted skin syndrome.

The chances of a serious medical condition resulting from placing a laptop on the upper thighs for long periods is very small. However, researchers noted malignant tumors could result thirty years later, and these tumors can spread. They recommend not placing a laptop directly on skin or on clothing next to skin for long periods.

Potential for skin cancer from the skin syndrome has been known for some time, “The possible development of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma or Merkel cell carcinoma represents the major long-term risk.” (Source: Medscape.com) Due to this slim possibility, they have said, “When using laptop computers on the thighs or knees for a long time, we recommend that heat protection (eg, the laptop’s carrying case) between the body and the computer be used.” (Source: Informationweek.com)

The report focused on the case of a twelve-year old boy who had been playing video games on a laptop for months and experienced discoloration of the skin on his leg. He ignored the pain, though admitted he did feel it. Two of the other cases reported using a laptop on the lap for six hours a day. Another case was six to eight hours a day.

The authors noted, “Computer-induced lesions are typically found on only one leg because the optical drives of laptops are located on the left side. Source: Medscape.com

Toasted Skin Syndrome existed before laptops were invented. It was known to result from people sitting close to fires, or using hot water bottles, or heating pads. It is speculated the rash-like red pattern on the skin occurs when blood flow is reduced from the prolonged exposure to heat.

Dr. Benabio, a dermatologist wrote about an elderly patient who came to see him, and was diagnosed with the skin problem, “Erythema ab igne, also known as toasted skin syndrome, is a red, brown rash that develops as a result of prolonged exposure to heat without an actual burn.”

The treatment is simply to no longer expose that area of skin to heat. Usually the discolored skin returns to a normal appearance. Sometimes it is permanently damaged.

The report is titled, Laptop Computer–Induced Erythema ab Igne in a Child and Review of the Literature.

Image Credit: Kristoferb

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61 comments

ay m.
g d c.4 years ago

how bizarre???

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Chris B.
Chris B.5 years ago

Hi, I'm Chris from Logitech. If you're interested in learning more about ways to use your laptop more comfortably, including our line of heat-shielding lapdesks, please visit www.logitech.com/notebook-products

Chris B.
Chris B.5 years ago

Hi, I'm Chris from Logitech. If you're interested in learning more about ways to use your laptop more comfortably, including our line of heat-shielding lapdesks, please visit www.logitech.com/notebook-products

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS5 years ago

Acknowledged. My roommate and I were once sitting on the sofa with a laptop between us, and it set the comforter on fire...

Electrah DM
Electrah DM5 years ago

No, it isn't common sense to have a tiny warning buried in manuals manufacturers know are rarely read by users. It is, however, common sense to think that something called a "laptop" should be safe on top of your lap.

Past Member
Inari T.5 years ago

Kunal A, you may be being a bit unfair - computer manufacturers may design the machine for use on a desk or table, or for short-term "laptop" use, but not for hours surrounded by insulating material, eg, clothes, bedding, flesh, etc.

As with so many things, "common sense" is not so common as one might have hoped.

jane richmond
jane richmond5 years ago

Thanks for the warning

criss S.
criss s.5 years ago

Cancerous...nice to know! Thank You.

Kunal A.
Past Member 5 years ago

I was on the fence on this one, until it happened to me (!) One corner of my laptop got *so* hot that it began to burn the sheet on my lap! What's with laptop manufacturers? Are they so "retarded" that they cannot build in an effective, working cooling mechanism?