WALES has seen a big increase in the number of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most serious form of skin cancer - new figures from Cancer Research UK reveal today .

During the last 40 years, the number of people diagnosed with the disease have more than quadrupled.

The results coincide with the launch of campaign by Cancer Research UK and Nivea Sun to encourage people to enjoy the sun safely this summer.

The latest incidence rates show that around 18 people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Wales every year. Th e mid-1970s rate was just four per 100,000.

The new figure equates to around 730 people developing malignant melanoma in Wales every year.

New figures from the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit show that an average of 22 people a year in Gwent were diagnosed with malignant melanoma during the period 2009-12.

The unit's figures do not go back to the 1970s, but during 1985-88, the average in Gwent was 12 per year.

The rise is attributed to several factors, including an huge increase in package holidays to Europe dating from the late 1960s on, the increasing popularity of must-have tans often achieved only after damaging sunburn, and the boom in sunbed use.

Better detection methods may also have contributed to the increase in diagnoses.

Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in Wales and around 120 people here die from the disease each year.

“We know overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented, so it’s essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad," said Alison Birkett, from Cancer Research UK.

“One of the best ways people can reduce their risk of malignant melanoma is to avoid getting sunburn. We know that those with the highest risk of the disease include people with pale skin, lots of moles or freckles, a history of sunburn or a family history of the disease.

“Sadly more and more people in Wales are being diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year. But the good news is that survival is amongst the highest for any cancer. More than 8 in 10 people will now survive the disease.”

The Cancer Research UK and Nivea Sun campaign will include a digital, radio and outdoor advertising campaign. Sun safety information from Cancer Research UK is available at