With temperatures in the UK recently hitting 26 degrees, millions of Brits have been heading outdoors to soak up the sun.

Warm, sunny days can boost your mood but new research has found that they can also damage your health.

More than 13,000 people are now being diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – each year. And, it’s younger and more affluent people that appear to be most at risk.

Keep reading to find out more about these worrying figures and why you should ensure that skin cancer is covered under your critical illness policy.

1 in 55 risk of developing skin cancer

The new data from Cancer Research UK suggests that more than 13,000 people are now developing the most serious type of skin cancer – malignant melanoma – each year.

There are now around 17 cases per 100,000 people – a five-fold increase on the rate 40 years ago. Cancer Research UK says the lifetime risk of developing the disease is now 1 in 55.

While the charity acknowledges that increased awareness and earlier diagnosis all play a role, the stark rise is primarily linked to changes in sun-related behaviour. A 2011 study estimated that around 86 per cent of malignant melanomas diagnosed are linked to exposure to UV from the sun and sun beds.

Skin cancer affecting younger and more affluent people

An unusual aspect of the rise in malignant melanoma diagnosis is that compared to other forms of cancer it is a disease of the young and the wealthy. The proportion of cases diagnosed in people under the age of 50 is more than double that of other cancers and it is also one of the only cancers where rates increase with affluence.

Research has found that people living in the richest areas experience an incidence rate up to 122 per cent higher for men and 116 per cent for women than in the most deprivedareas. This has been attributed to an increased incidence of holidays abroad, the use of sunbeds and lack of care while on holiday.

Rates of malignant melanoma are said to be rising fastest in people in their teens and 20s. This has been linked to a rise in families who take their children on foreign holidays, thus increasing their exposure and incidence of severe sunburn in childhood – a key trigger for the cancer.

Make sure skin cancer is covered under your critical illness policy

While skin cancer is a relatively recent inclusion under most critical illness policies, it has now become one of the most common reasons for policyholders to make a claim.

Leading insurer Ageas Protect says that skin cancer was the second most common type of cancer affecting their critical illness claimants in 2013. All of these claimants were under 50 and the youngest was just 33.

The insurer says that two thirds of people are diagnosed with skin cancer at an early enough stage that it is easy to treat. This means that critical illness policies will generally only cover more serious types of skin cancer or those that have spread into the lymph nodes of other organs.

One third of people are not diagnosed until a later stage and this requires lengthier and more invasive treatment. Those people who held an Ageas critical illness policy were each able to claim an average of £95,000 to help them through their recovery. The insurer says that later stage skin cancer is now one of our most significant areas of claims.

Insurance expert Gwilym Pugh says: “When you’re shopping for critical illness cover it can certainly pay to choose a policy that covers a wide range of conditions – including skin cancer – rather than the very cheapest cover.

“This data highlights not only the importance of getting the right critical illness cover but also the need for individuals and families to take care on a hot day. Always make sure you use plenty of sun cream and that you take all the necessary steps to protect your skin while out in the sun.”