Big increase in most serious skin cancer says charity

Melanoma cell Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in Wales

Wales has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people diagnosed with the most serious form of skin cancer since the 1970s, a cancer charity says.

Cancer Research UK said the rates of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma had more than quadrupled in Wales over the past 40 years.

The rates equate to around 730 people developing the cancer every year.

The rise was said to be partly down to an explosion in package holidays to Europe dating from the late 1960s.

Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Wales, said: "One of the best ways people can reduce their risk of malignant melanoma is to avoid getting sunburn.

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Media captionTony Fitzgerald from Swansea spent his childhood on the beaches of Gower - but diagnosed with skin cancer as an adult

"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 eight in 10 people will now survive the disease."

'Damaging sunburn'

The charity said the latest incidence rates showed that around 18 people in every 100,000 were diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Wales every year. This is compared to just four per 100,000 in the mid 1970s.

Cancer Research said this equated to 729 cases in 2011 compared with 87 cases in 1975.

The rise is put down to the growth of package holidays over the past 40 years and the increase in the popularity of sun tans, which Cancer Research said was often achieved only after "damaging sunburn".

Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in Wales with around 120 people dying from it each year.

Cancer Research is running an advertising campaign to raise awareness of sun safety.

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