Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones Linked to Skin Cancer Risk: Study

Researchers from the University of Mexico say that mobile devices, such as cell phones, laptops and tablets, could increase the risk of skin cancer. However, the risk does not come from electromagnetic fields or radio waves, but rather from sunlight reflected off the shiny screens. 

In a letter published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers described the findings of a small observational study, which indicated that staring at mobile devices could increase exposure to ultraviolet rays by reflecting them at the user’s face.

During the study, researchers placed a mannequin’s head with a UVA/B light meter various distances from a plain musician’s sheet music stand. They then placed various devices on the stand at angles and distances to represent how a typical adult would use them and measured the light reflected back and compared it to baselines.

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Researchers found that even reading a simple magazine increased UV dosage by 46%. A Macbook laptop computer increased UV exposure by 75% and an iPad2 increased exposure by 85%. Using an iPhone5 only increased exposure by about 36%.

The researchers have suggested wearing sunglasses, putting on sunscreen, and covering shoulders when planning to use these types of mobile devices outside, and said the risk could be reduced by manufacturers if they make screens less reflective.

UV exposure is believed to be a primary cause of many forms of skin cancer, including melanoma. According to the researchers UV radiation exposure has been linked to about 90% of nomelanoma skin cancers.

The American Cancer Society indicates that melanoma is diagnosed in about 69,000 Americans each year and causes about 8,650 deaths annually. The skin cancer usually manifests as unusual moles or patches of skin. While it is often curable if caught early, once melanoma has spread beyond the skin and local lymph nodes, treatment is difficult and it may ultimately result in death.


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