HUFFINGTON POST

How Hazardous Are Laptops To Your Health?

11/21/2010 11:33 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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If you've ever used a laptop computer, you've probably sat with it on your lap (hence the name) while watching television or sitting in an airport and noticed that it can get quite hot.

And you may have heard that having that laptop on your lap can potentially be hazardous to your health. Because, while the computer does not get hot enough to actually burn you, it can lead to problems.

Read on for some sound advice on what you should be concerned about the next time you boot up.

The Claim:
Hot Laptops Cause "Toasted Skin Syndrome"

What We Know: In a recent case, a 12-year-old boy developed a sponge-patterned skin discoloration on his left thigh after playing a computer game for several hours a day over a period of a few months. Even though he noticed that the laptop was getting hot, he didn't move it. In another case, a Virginia law student sought medical attention after developing a skin discoloration on her legs.

Dr. Kimberly Salkey, who treated the woman, found that the bottom of her computer, which she used for several hours each day, reached a temperature of 125 degrees.

Dr. Neil J. Korman, a dermatologist and director of the Clinical Trials Unit at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said that the medical name for "toasted skin syndrome" is erythema ab igne, which means "redness by fire."

"It's a condition that was originally caused by people sitting for too long in front of a fire -- maybe a fireplace or a space heater," he told AOL Health. "It's related to the skin having prolonged exposure to a certain high temperature, like with a laptop. There was a case of a very obese patient who was resting the laptop on his belly. He developed discoloration. It doesn't go away."

The Claim: Laptops Cause Cancer

What We Know: Swiss researchers, Drs. Andreas Arnold and Peter Itin from University Hospital Basel did a study that found some evidence that a hot laptop could lead to skin damage that might develop into skin cancer. Although they said that this is very rare, the risk is still real.

They do not cite any specific cases of skin cancer from laptop use, but they did suggest in their study placing a carrying case or pad between your body and the laptop.

"There is a risk of skin cancer that can occur from erythema ab igne but it's very uncommon," says Korman. "It's more of a theoretical risk."

The Claim: Laptops Cause Infertility in Men

What We Know: According to researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, there is a direct correlation between laptop use and increased scrotum temperature. In fact, hot laptops have been found to increase the temperature of scrotums up to 35 degrees above the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees.

This increase has a well-documented harmful effect on sperm production, which may lead to infertility. Other studies have found that heated car seats have a similar effect on sperm production.

Korman suggests using common sense. Meaning, if your laptop feels hot, don't put it on your lap.

"Get a laptop desk or a laptop cooler -- they now make ones that have fans in them. It's common sense. If it's hot, then don't put it on you. Also, some computers are hotter than others so find out the specs before you buy."

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