THE popularity of package holidays to Europe has contributed to a surge in skin cancer rates.
Figures released by Cancer Research UK show the incidence of the most serious type of the disease is now five times higher than it was more than 40 years ago.
More than 13,000 develop malignant melanoma each year, compared with around 1,800 in the mid-1970s.
The charity says the rising popularity of foreign holidays from the late 1960s and sunbed use has fuelled the increase.
Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer, with more than 2,000 dying from it each year.
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.
Experts say people should cover up, use factor 15 sunscreen or stay in the shade.
Nick Ormiston-Smith, head of statistics at Cancer Research UK, said: "Since the mid-1970s, malignant melanoma incidence rates in the UK have increased more rapidly than for any of today's 10 most common cancers.
"Holidays in hot climates have become more affordable and sunbeds are more widely available since the 1970s.
"But we know over exposure 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, and is why it's essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad."
However, eight in 10 people survive the disease, among the highest rate for any cancer.
Caroline Cerny, senior health campaigns manager at CRUK, said: "Everyone loves getting out and about and enjoying the summer sun. It's essential to take care not to burn - sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged and, over time, this can lead to skin cancer."
"When the sun is strong, pop on a T-shirt, spend some time in the shade and use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and good UVA protection."