NEW YORK (CBS 2/AP) — Have you ever worked on your laptop computer with it sitting on your lap, heating up your legs? If so, you might want to rethink that habit.

Doing it a lot can lead to “toasted skin syndrome,” an unusual-looking mottled skin condition caused by long-term heat exposure, according to medical reports.

In one recent case, a 12-year-old boy developed a sponge-patterned skin discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games a few hours every day for several months.

“He recognized that the laptop got hot on the left side; however, regardless of that, he did not change its position,” Swiss researchers reported in an article published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Another case involved a Virginia law student who sought treatment for the mottled discoloration on her leg.

Dr. Kimberley Salkey, who treated the young woman, was stumped until she learned the student spent about six hours a day working with her computer propped on her lap. The temperature underneath registered 125 degrees.

That case, from 2007, is one of 10 laptop-related cases reported in medical journals in the past six years.

In this undated photo provided by the journal Pediatrics, a 12 year-old boy is pictured with evidence of "toasted skin syndrome" on his left leg caused by exsposure to high temperatures while spending a great deal of time playing video games with a laptop resting on his legs. According to recent medical reports, exposing skin to the high temperatures created by laptops can lead to tss, an unusual-looking mottled skin condition caused by long-term heat exposure. (AP Photo/HO via Pediatrics) NO SALES

The condition also can be caused by overuse of heating pads and other heat sources that usually aren’t hot enough to cause burns. It’s generally harmless but can cause permanent skin darkening. In very rare cases, it can cause damage leading to skin cancers, said the Swiss researchers, Drs. Andreas Arnold and Peter Itin from University Hospital Basel. They do not cite any skin cancer cases linked to laptop use, but suggest, to be safe, placing a carrying case or other heat shield under the laptop if you have to hold it in your lap.

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.

Dr. Anthony J. Mancini, 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.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (138)
  1. Megan says:

    My previous comment was directed to “Steve” by the way!

  2. Ent Entemann says:

    Happened to me. Fell asleep. -dock
    Got a major dime-sized blister in the worst male place possible.
    Wish I was kidding Had to put it in drydock for a week until it healed.

  3. Joel G says:

    Funny! Several years ago (and you heard this here first) I wrote an unnamed vendor about their “laptop” which I affectionately dubbed a “nut roaster”. That got their attention, and me a phone call in response from a VP who admitted that they no longer market them them as “laptops” for obvious reasons.

  4. Hunter says:

    Notice its the left leg…must be the left side of his brain that is lacking common sense. Seems to be a trend.

    1. Sarah says:

      You do know the left side governs the right and the right side governs the left right? ….

  5. Mik says:

    Wife and I have chill pads under our laptops, so my issues is my nuts tend to suffer from the cold draught!

  6. Tyrone says:

    This just shows that you can’t protect stupid people from themselves.

    1. Reagan Worshipper says:

      But the progressive nazis will try anyway.

  7. TEN says:

    The real issue in this story is the fact that this kids leg muscles are non existant. Put the computer down and play OUTSIDE!!!

  8. Tom Antrim says:

    I eat off of a TV tray allot and as I was working on my laptop I thought why can I put a double tier TV tray. So I made one so when dinner comes I just flip over the hinged top and after I eat I flip it off.

  9. heather says:

    I have a slight case of this from using my laptop. I have patches of darker skin, I hope they go away but it looks like they might be permanent which stinks. With me, the issue is that the laptop is hot but it never gets to the point of real pain when it’s in your lap so you move it or put something under it. I guess it’s simmering your skin.

  10. NYmike says:

    I require a pill to address this new syndrome that will grow tougher skin on my the front of my legs – and I require a government warning on all laptops – Sibleiious will get right on this new threat to Americans. And soon Napolitano will ban laptops from airplanes – heck, if they get so hot to cause a burnt leg syndrome, what can they do to the cabin of an airplane.

  11. scopioroe says:

    I love reading everyone’s comments so entertaining.
    I use my laptop while watching TV if its gets hot I have one of those
    cooling things under my laptop.

  12. RightWIngConspirator says:


    Shhh!! stop blabbing! ..or they’ll be ON TO US for sure!

    BTW – we meet a the usual spot tonight for more supergluing laptops to folks legs while they’re not paying enough attention, but when? …and what’s the new secret password for the meeting?

  13. LES says:

    Hot and laptop. It’s painfully obvious. It’s AlGore’s Fault. He invented the internet, and global warming.

  14. Gwammy says:

    Definitely those nasty Bible-carrying, gun-toting, family-loving idiots doing their dirties again!!

  15. hal. says:

    …or you could spend a few bucks and buy a cooling pad for your laptop.

  16. tony says:

    Imagine that. Laptops are not safe to keep in your lap. I’d be surprised if there aren’t a slew of greedy people suing now.

  17. Grandma Ree says:

    I wonder how long it will take them to put warning tags on laptops that this machine could be dangerous to your health; like the ones on hair dryers that tell you not to use the hairdryer in the shower?

  18. TheStig says:

    Someone angeling for a big fat research grant to link all this to “Global Warming”. OR, perhaps left wing whackjobs have concluded too many of us are getting the “other side of the story” on Drudge and want to take our laptops away.

  19. steve says:

    Use a MAC and your legs won’t get hot. MacBook Pro never gets hot. Hell, it never even gets warm.

  20. JWS says:

    I smell another idiot lawsuit brewing.

  21. NoOneHome says:

    Laptops make for “heated scrotums”?

    Wow! Think of the money saved from lap dances !!

  22. Fred says:

    True story! I swear !!! Last night in Winter Garden Florida….a man was found sitting on his couch…dead…with his laptop in his lap ! Wonder what he was watching?

  23. Alesha says:

    Surely it comes down to common sense. I wear skirts with bare legs most of the time. If I’m using my laptop I can FEEL when its getting too hot & I’ll move it or put something under it. Does it really take a report by experts to tell us that?

  24. Islomophobic rabid hater says:

    Leave it on your face and start to look like an arab HA HA HA

  25. daisy duke says:

    it’s al gore’s fault he invented the internet

  26. SubjectoftheUSSA says:

    Like we needed more news telling us that PEOPLE ARE STUPID

    If it gets hot to the point of being uncomfortable, probably not a good idea to keep the laptop directly ON your lap.

  27. Rusty says:

    Bush – again.

  28. Jimmy Carter says:

    It’s obvious, it’s George Bush’s fault.

  29. Mommamoose says:

    Thanks for all the insane comments today….I needed a laugh. Hot enough to leave noticeable marks and they continued to disregard the warning…..must be Democrats!

  30. stumpCHUNKMAN says:

    [“That case, from 2007, is one of 10 laptop-related cases reported in medical journals in the past six years.”]

    10 cases in 6 years, OMG it’s an epidemic!!!

  31. davejo87bn says:

    Sorry to say this but this is all Obama’s fault.

    1. Off topic says:

      Now that Bush derangement syndrome must wane as he’s been out of office for 2 years… EVERYTHING is officially Obama’s fault.

      The difference is, this time – if you’re talking about the US Economy – it’ll be true!

  32. John says:

    George Bush again. He keeps doing it to us, oh, Herbert Hoover as well!

  33. Paul says:

    Steve, Get a clue you wacko.

  34. Roy says:

    but it feels so warm and cozy,you just want to take it to bed………..

  35. DanDenali says:

    seems to me that the syndrome is mis-labeled. Should be called stupid-dummy syndrome. By the looks of things, Steve (comment at 10:53am ) also has its symptoms with his stupid-dummy comment.

  36. jay says:

    Steve you are mental – right leaning radicals? Take down the obama admin?
    The article is about informing people about laptops getting hot enough to burn you.

    1. TheStig says:

      Obammo et al are taking themselves down.

  37. synapse says:

    we need a law

    or an executive order.

    or some common sense.

    or something.

    1. IRONMANAustralia says:


      Yeah, when I read the headline I thought, “interesting”.

      When I read the article I thought, “Oh, so there’s actually nothing to worry about then”.

      But I bet there’s some bed-wetter out there already drafting a law …

    2. ,jensational says:

      a law? for what? telling us we can’t use our laptops on our laps? Geez, you need to get a life, LOL

      1. Reagan Worshipper says:

        Jensational he is right. First a law requiring laptops to bear warning labels and then when that doesn’t work they can require manufacturers to put cooling units on the bottom and of course there will be the new laptop tax to defray costs of cosmetic surgery for people that can’t afford it after they got burns from the laptop for every student program.. Your next netbook might cost 1000 bucks.

  38. glenp says:

    actually BASAL CELL carcinoma is the most common skin cancer

    1. Been an Editor says:

      That’s what they said… Squamous is MORE AGRESSIVE THAN the most common skin cancer. You need to read more slowly!

  39. BS Meter says:

    Or, in other words..

    Hot things like laptops or scaling coffee etc. on your skin.. can burn you.

    (thanks CBS)

    1. Tomcaatt says:

      They have to make something to take over the internet!

    2. Jim says:

      One word. Ipad

  40. Steve says:

    This is definitely a made-up syndrome created by right-leaning radicals trying to take down the Obama administration. What’s next, righties, Melted Ear Disorder caused by cell phones?

    1. Sunday says:

      Steve please put down what ever you are smoking , thats nuts!

    2. e says:

      As someone whose 39 year old son recently had a brain tumor removed which the doctor said was likely caused by cell phone usage over the years, I would say it might be possible that this could cause some problems which are yet undetermined.

    3. TermLimitsNow says:

      If Obama’s birth was NOT a “live” one, it would explain a lot!

    4. John says:

      Steve, Your an idiot. How does this even remotely relate to Obama administration. Its not the Obama or Bush administration that put is in our current situation its morons like you, who cant see past political parties.

    5. Nick says:

      Seriously? Come on. Skin is just like any other material in that if you do something to it long enough, it will have a permanent side effect. Albeit, skin is regenerative, but only to a point. This isn’t really that crazy an idea, and it’s strange that you could even find any form of logic that would lead you to “right-leaning radicals” or how this could at all affect a political administration.

    6. jensational says:

      you’re joking right? especially when most media outlets are predominantely left leaning liberals? But seriously, this is what you get from this story?? How about be careful or you’ll wind up to different colored legs?!?

    7. Mister Biscuit says:

      No, it’s created by left-leaning trial lawyers ready to take down EVERY computer company in the USA, to be able to take 33% of the booty in fees, and at the same time destroy the remaining companies that Obama has not been able to cripple yet, the companies that are succeeding despite his administration’s every effort, and to leave the rest of the world’s companies unscathed, so they can eat us alive. Almost every other country in the world retains their intelligence and would never let their own lawyers to destroy their global competitiveness. Buy precious metals, thanks to Obama, our economy is finished, it’s over, you’ll see. Obama and Pelosi succeeded in what they set out to do. If you doubt it, print this message, stick it to your corkboard, and read it again in only 6-12 months! We’re toast, and they do it to us because idiots still defend them while they steal our lollipops directly from our mouths!

      1. Boris says:

        Lawyers don’t impress me much.

      2. LC says:

        I love you Mister Biscuit! Online high five! 🙂

      1. Reagan Worshipper says:

        Nice response Joel. We won’t shut up. You need to put your fingers in your ears and sing lalala I can’t hear you.

    8. Nick says:

      To just-whine-about-everything-“steve”: last checked, CBS is about a left winged as one can get. Even Kennedy is not left leaning enough for CBS.

      This article is more about whiny lefties whining about new “ailments” that SomeBody should do something about.

    9. D. Brent says:

      eh? Steve, I sincerely hope you’re saying this tongue in cheek! Does everything have to be tied to politics? Yeesch!

    10. nastynaz says:

      no its not invented, I really had that!

    11. Eileen says:

      I’d like to respond to you but I don’t know how to speak MORON.

    12. BobVADemHawk says:

      95% of the nation recognizes just how stupid your non-argument is. The other five percent is just as dumb as you are.

    13. Mike says:

      Steve talks on the phone to aliens to often

    14. mike says:

      Steve, is uh, uh,uh usually the beginning of most of your sentences and answers.

    15. Porter says:

      Toasted Skin Syndrome is a vast right-wing conspiracy to bring down His Highness Obama? Gufffaaawwwww!! – that’s good! You frightened little weasels get more creative all the time! Keep it up, PLEASE!! Just can’t make this stuff up…

    16. Megan says:

      You could not be any more unintelligent lol. Paranoid much?

    17. Mandyeaddy says:

      Steve, do you always feel like somebody’s watching you?
      Pariniod much? Hahahahaha !!!!!!!

    18. Steve's Buddy says:

      My my my, hateful little boy aren’t we Steve? Does your mommy know you’re using her computer?

    19. Jacob says:

      Really? Please point out where this report makes political comments about obama. As I am in college, its nice to know what might happen if I continue working with my laptop on my thighs. Please, take your political comments to a political forum, or just stay quiet.

    20. TR says:

      Stay on your medication. For you and for all of us.

    21. Boris says:

      How about a witch doctor’s signature?

    22. What? says:

      It’s definitely not made up because I have the same exact thing going on with me. Why would someone make that up? Side note: I’m liberal and a proud Obama supporter. I hope you were just making a funny.

    23. Liberty Please says:

      Steve, you just made liberals sound even dumber than conservatives. Why would you do that?

    24. Dave says:

      Right-leaning radicals? That sounds like something the weirdo left thinks up like global warming, or its okay to be gay. Its also a entitlement ridden thought up by the leftist to sit playing videos games hour after hour instead of working on something to better your life. Just your simple comment that this has something to do with Obama proves how stupid you really are.

      Please pull your head out of the sand.

    25. kris says:

      boy a little paranoid?

    26. James from Aus says:

      Anyone working in the computer sales industry or even as a consumer of such products would have noticed how laptops are no longer called ‘laptops’ and now known as notebooks. Makes you wonder whether a round table society got together and agreed to change the naming once enough users had their reproductive organs deep fried.

      It is concerning that people spend years denying the side effects of using such hot devices and have to wait for the scientists to issue a press release.

      I use an external USB keyboard and mouse (fully corded not wireless!) as this should minimise contact with the hot surface of the laptop. Hopefully I am better shielded from the radiation too.

    27. DaftAida says:

      No Steve, Melted Brain Disorder suffered by you and millions of clapping seals in US Corp. Int. Glob caused by Obamara SinDrone

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