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YOUNG WOMEN OPT FOR LESS SUN

It's been 10 years since a U.S. government panel hung a black cloud over sun worshipers, telling of the dangers of ultraviolet rays and the merits of various sunscreens.

It appears that the message is beginning to pay off.Sixty-two percent of young American women polled say they get less sun than 10 years ago, with fear of skin cancer high on the list of reasons. The telephone survey of 500 women ages 25-35 from across the country was reported in the May issue of Self magazine.

This age group was chosen because it was the first generation to hit the teens and 20s hearing that less sun is better, according to the magazine, which along with the American Academy of Dermatology commissioned the survey by the Opinion Research Corporation.

Sixty-three percent of the women use sunscreen, with the most popular choice a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15. Less than 20 percent of black women responding said they use sunscreen, even though dermatologists believe the natural pigment in black skin is not protection enough.

The highest sunscreen use is in the Northeast, where more than 75 percent of the respondents said they protect their skin. In contrast, less than 60 percent use sunscreens in the South, where UV exposure is more intense year-round.

"Five years ago, it was unusual for women to use any sunscreen," says Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.

Women who have children report that they are careful with their children's skin.

"Skin damage begins in childhood," says Dr. Sidney Hurwitz, clinical professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine." A person may get 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before age twenty."

Even though the women are opting for less tanning time and more SPF, the survey found that a large majority believe they look healthier and more attractive with a tan. Few, however, opt for makeup to fake a tan.