Incidence rates of melanoma have risen from seven cases per 100,000 people in the mid-1970s to 36 cases per 100,000, according to Cancer Research UK.
Men in their 60s and 70s have seen their risk jump the most: they are now over seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than in the 1970s.
Cancer Research UK has launched the SunSmart campaign to tackle the growing problem.
SunSmart manager Caroline Cerny said: ‘A change in the culture of tanning including the explosion of cheap package holidays and the introduction of sunbeds in the seventies means we're now seeing alarming rates of melanoma for an entire age group.'
She added: ‘Already skin cancer is predicted to become the fourth most common cancer for men and for women in the UK by 2024.
'We must continue to try and stop this pattern of behaviour or melanoma rates in future generations will hit an all time high.'
There has also been a large increase in the overall death rates, the statistics show. Over a similar period they have more than doubled from 1.2 per 100,000 in 1971 to 2.6 per 100,000 in the UK in 2007.