• Press Release

More than 700 Screened for Skin Cancer at 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival

Mount Sinai Dermatologists Identified Many with Sun-damaged Skin over Ten Days

  • (July 07, 2015)

Dermatologists from the Mount Sinai Health System performed 726 skin cancer screenings at the Aspen Ideas Festival (AIF), identifying 18 possible melanomas and 46 potential non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell and squamous cell abnormalities). These potential diagnoses must be confirmed with additional testing.

The Aspen Ideas Festival, which was held from June 25 through July 4, 2015, in Aspen, Colorado, gathers thought leaders from around the world to discuss their work and issues that inspire them. Presented by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the festival is unique in its dedication to the global exchange of ideas. The event is ideal for skin cancer screenings, given Aspen’s high altitude, thinner atmosphere, and higher-than-usual exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world, but also one of the most preventable and treatable forms,” said Mark Lebwohl, MD, Sol and Clara Kest Professor and Chairman, Kimberly and Eric J. Waldman Department of Dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “When caught early, the cure rate is nearly 100 percent. In addition, our department is working on innovations that we hope will identify skin cancers earlier and treat them more effectively.”

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer and more than 90 percent of melanomas are due to skin cell damage from ultraviolet sun light. Without additional prevention efforts, the CDC predicts 112,000 new cases per year by 2030. Melanoma is responsible for more than 9,000 skin cancer deaths each year. Among the reasons for the Mount Sinai screening event in Aspen each year is that UV effects on the skin increase dramatically with elevation. At 8000 feet, sun exposure in Aspen is much more damaging than comparable sun exposure at sea level.

Norman Goldstein, MD, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, screens a person for skin cancer

The screening team within the Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine included Norman Goldstein, MD, Clinical Professor Dermatology, Virginia Chen, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor Dermatology, Dina Anderson, MD, Clinical Instructor Dermatology, Alicia Cool, MD, Clinical Instructor Dermatology, Annette Czernik, MD, Assistant Professor Dermatology, Theodore Daly, MD, Clinical Instructor Dermatology, Suzanne Friedler, MD, Clinical Instructor Dermatology, and Aanand Geria, MD, Clinical Instructor Dermatology.

"We had the opportunity to screen many Aspen natives, many of whom were volunteers at the festival," Dr. Geria said. "We were surprised that there were a number of people who never saw a dermatologist before, so we were happy to be able to provide this service. People in this area are exposed to a tremendous amount of UV light because of the weather and elevation. We screened many patients who already had a history of skin cancer."

Dermatologists counseled patients not to forget to put sunscreen in three key areas – on top of their ears, on the "v" areas of their chest and on bald patches. The hands, as well as areas at the bottom of the feet and in between toes, are not immune to skin cancer and should be checked. Doctors also reminded patients to wear sunscreen on the ski slopes, as the reflection of UV rays off of snow is more powerful in higher altitudes.

"Many participants had questions on sunscreens and on general skin care," said Dr. Friedler. “They told us they kept putting off their screenings, so the opportunity for a screening was appreciated and well-received.”

Over three years of screening at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Mount Sinai dermatologists have performed a total of 1,846 screenings, identifying 30 possible cases of melanomas. Screenings also detected a total of 156 potential non-melanoma skin cancers (102 basal cell and 54 squamous cell abnormalities). All potential diagnoses need to be confirmed through additional testing.

For a summary of Mount Sinai’s participation at Aspen, please go to this link.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.

For more information, visit https://www.mountsinai.org or find Mount Sinai on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.