The survey of 2,000 adults by Cancer Research UK and high street chain Superdrug showed 46% of Britons were sunburnt at least once this year.
Of those who were burnt, 32% said they were trying to get a tan. Half of these people would risk burning again for the sake of their tan, the survey found.
Ed Yong, of Cancer Research UK, said, ‘While it’s important to enjoy the sun safely to get enough vitamin D, there are risks involved in long exposures. And these results indicate that people aren't taking these risks seriously enough.’
Respondents to the survey were most commonly burned on their face, with 40% admitting they were left red-faced after spending too long in the sun.
This was followed by arms (39%), shoulders (37%) and neck (36%).
But only a third of those burnt said they would be more careful in future.
More than 10,300 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK every year, and almost 2,000 people die from it.
Over the last 25 years, rates of malignant melanoma in Britain have risen faster than any other common cancer.