• 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

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,480 primary and specialty care physicians; 11 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 12 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Orthopedics in the 2019-2020 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and Mount Sinai South Nassau is ranked 35th nationally for Urology. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Mount Sinai West, and Mount Sinai South Nassau are ranked regionally.

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