Skin cancer has broken the 10,000 barrier for the first time in the UK, touching 10,400 in 2006. Malignant melanoma could top 15,500 by 2024 if current trends continue. In 1993 there were only 5,625 cases.
Cases are more common in women but men are more likely to die of the disease, this is thought to be because men probably check their moles for changes less than women.
Around 5,600 women are diagnosed each year compared with 4,800 men.
During the last 30 years malignant melanoma rates have more than quadrupled, rising from 3.4 people per 100,000 in 1977 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2006.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "These figures show that a worrying number of people are being diagnosed with this potentially fatal disease.
"With the rates of malignant melanoma in the UK rising faster than any other cancer it's more important than ever that people are aware of the dangers of getting burned, either in the sun or from using sunbeds.
"Most melanoma skin cancers are caused by over exposure to UV rays given off by the sun and sunbeds. But, crucially, if people are careful not to redden or burn, especially if they have fair or freckly skin then most cases of malignant melanoma could be prevented."
Awareness among the young is little, leading to dangerous consequences, it is felt.
Advice is to spend time in the shade in the middle of the day, cover up with clothing where possible, wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen of at least SPF factor 15 regularly.
Meanwhile a survey commissioned by the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) found that more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds say the risk of skin cancer will not make them spend less time sunbathing this summer.
Fifty women under the age of 40 die from melanoma each year, however 30 per cent of people questioned said they had not thought about skin cancer.