Melanoma survivor urges sunscreen use

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DYERSVILLE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – In 2013, then 22 year old Dylan Slattery found out a mole on his neck was the start of Melanoma.

“I went up to mayo clinic, they removed the mole, did some tests, and found out that it had not penetrated underneath the skin at that point, so then for the next year and a half I went on normal life,” Slattery said.

He had regular scans and things seemed normal, until he woke up with another symptom. A test showed he had stage four cancer.

“I had a large golf ball size lump develop overnight underneath my jaw line,” Slattery said. “It had spread to my lung, my liver, my neck, and three tumors in my spine.”

He underwent treatment at UIHC. The worst parts requiring chemo three times a day and four weeks in intensive care. Now he’s 10 months tumor free. He said his fair skin, red hair, and freckles as well as severe sunburn as a child might have contributed to his cancer.

“I did have some severe sunburns when I was growing up where I developed some blisters on my shoulders,” he said.

Nassif Community Cancer Center Director Kimberly Ivester said preventative care is something everyone needs to take part in.

“The time of the day that the exposure is the most, which is from 10 to 4 o’clock, you want to try to avoid those times. If you can’t, and you have to be out in the sun, wearing a hat is always good. Applying sunscreen is a must, and applying sunscreen every couple hours,” Ivester said.

Slattery coached baseball at Beckman High School and a for a youth team throughout his journey. He made sure to pass a preventative care routine down to them as well.

“We each have sunscreen that clips on our bat bags, so it’s no excuse to not put it on when we have it right there,” Slattery said. “We always put it on before our games together, that way nobody had any excuse to not put it on.”

Ivester said there is an ideal formula for sunscreen.

“SPF of 30 has a 97% to 98% protection rate if it’s used correctly, and that’s the biggest key. If you’re applying it every couple of hours, and you’re applying it at least 20 minutes before you go out in the sun,” she said. “The expensive sunscreen isn’t going to protect you more, so the generic sunscreen works just as well.”

Ivester said always buy a bottle that says “broad spectrum.” That means it fights against both UVA and UVB rays. You should also always check the expiration date. An expired bottle doesn’t not provide full prevention.

“It really is just being smart about it. Wearing the sunscreen and not forgetting about the areas, your lips, the top of your ears, those are areas that we don’t see all the time either,” Ivester said.

If you do notice a new area on your skin that’s changing in shape, color, or has uneven edges contact your doctor.

“I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve experienced what it was like to have to overcome something like that and it’s not fun, so if you can prevent it’s a no brainer,” Slattery said.