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Do Mobile Devices Raise Skin Cancer Risk?

Do Mobile Devices Raise Skin Cancer Risk?
  • Mobile tablets, smartphones and laptops expose users to ultraviolet light, which may also increase their risk of developing skin cancer. 

    Experts from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque say that since these devices are used for communication and entertainment, we often don’t notice the reflective properties “unless you happen to catch the glare off of a screen.” They suggested that there are similarities to old-fashioned metallic tanning reflectors, and so the electronic devices can also pose risks to skin.

    The researchers set up a mannequin head wearing UVA/UVB sensors on a grassy field. The head was placed facing a musicians stand, and different types of mobile devices were placed on the stand facing back at it. In two trials, where the device was either 12.25 or 16.5 inches away, the researchers recorded UV exposure levels for one hour.

    Both the UV sensor and devices were angled to simulate an adult looking down at a device. For testing materials they used a magazine, an iPhone5, different iPad models, two MacBook laptop models and a Kindle e-reader.

    Compared to the empty music stand, in the first trial where devices were farther away, reflection from an open magazine increase UV exposure by 46 percent, an 11-inch Macbook increased it by 75 percent, and the iPad2 increased exposure by 85 percent.  During the second trial, where devices were only 12.25 inches away from the “face,” the researchers added the iPhone 5, which increased UV exposure by 36 percent.

    Ideally, the researchers noted, people would reduce their use of mobile devices outdoors, although they acknowledged that that may not be realistic. 

    In the future, devices may be designed to reduce glare and reflection, but in the meantime, experts still recommend using sunscreen on exposed areas, covering the shoulders and wearing sunglasses when outdoors, particularly if mobile devices are used. 

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