Can the tech in our lives increase risk of skin cancer?

The major risk factors for skin cancer continue to be for those people who have fair skin or a lighter natural color, family history of skin cancer or personal history of skin cancer, ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or indoor tanning. UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen skin that burns easily, gets red easily or becomes painful in the sun. But now a new study says the tech in our lives such as devices like tablets, smartphones and laptops can actually reflect these ultraviolet light from the sun and may directly increase an individual's exposure to the cancer-causing wavelengths. 




Obviously the devices in our lives are used for communication and entertainment so we can easily overlook their reflective properties unless you happen to catch the glare off the screen. People wondered whether old-fashioned tanning reflectors, personal electronics and could also pose skin health risks. 

A small observational study conducted on a grassy field where they set up a mannequin head wearing a UVA/B light meter and faced it toward a standard musician's sheet stand. Then they placed various mobile devices on the stand. 

Throughout two trials, researchers recorded UV readings for an hour of exposure from 11am to noon using a magazine, iPhone5, various iPad models and two Macbook laptops as well as a Kindle eReader. The first trial placed the UV sensor 16.5 inches away and in the second they were secured 12.25 inches away. The devices and UV sensor were angled to mimic an adult looking down at the handheld device. 


Scientists measures UVA/B dose exposure from light reflected by the devices in Joules per square centimeter over one hour and compared that to the UV readings with an empty sheet stand. In the first trial, as the devices were further away from the mannequin, an open magazine increased UV dosage exposure by 46 percent compared to the sheet stand alone, an iPad2 increased exposure by about 85% and an 11-inch Macbook increased by 75%;

The iPhone5 was only included in the second trial and help closer to the mannequin's face. The device increased exposure by 36%. 

Given the increase in UV exposure, there needs to be further research to see if skin cancer risks are affected, researchers noted. 

Skin Cancer Facts

  • bout 3.5 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. 
  • It is estimated that in 2015, melanoma (a more severe type of skin cancer) will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer. 
  • Accounts for over 76% of cancer deaths each year
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. 
  • About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by excessive sun exposure (ultraviolet radiation)
  • Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.
  • 40-50% of Americans who live to age 65 will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once in their life.
  • Three main types of skin cancer.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (most common type)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma (most deadly)