More people than ever now spend some of their free time outdoors - 52 per cent, compared with 17 per cent in 1977 - but two-thirds do not use protective cream to reduce the effects of the sun's harmful ultra-violet rays. As a result, they are more likely to contract skin cancer than those who do use sunscreens.
Skin cancer is the fastest growing type of cancer in Britain, with 40,000 new cases and more than 2,000 deaths a year. Between 1974 and 1991 there was a 50 per cent rise in cases.
The Health Education Authority report, Trends in Outdoor Pursuits, reveals that only 26 per cent of men and 38 per cent of women use sunscreens when relaxing outdoors.
The HEA wants to target those "hidden" sun worshippers who take part in outdoor activities but think they do not need skin protection. This includes the 64 per cent of Britons who enjoy gardening in the summer months.