Aug. 8 -- Coinciding with the death of former President Reagan's oldest daughter Maureen from skin cancer, an ABCNEWS.com poll finds fewer than three in 10 Americans use sunscreen on a regular basis, despite many doctors' advice.
Despite an abundance of health warnings about the dangers of overexposure to the sun, only 17 percent of adults say they always apply sunscreen lotion when they're going out in the sun for a half-hour or more. Another 12 percent usually do so, according to an ABCNEWS.com survey.
That leaves the vast majority at risk of a burn, or worse. Sixty-nine percent use sunscreen on a less-than-usual basis — only sometimes (16 percent), rarely if ever (35 percent) or never (18 percent).
That's a bad choice, says the American Academy of Dermatology. It advises: "If you must be in the sun, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15, even on cloudy days."
Women are more likely than men to wear sunscreen. Fifty-three percent of women protect themselves at least sometimes, compared to only 36 percent of men. More than six in 10 men rarely or never apply sunscreen.
Better-educated people are more apt to use sunscreen, as are Northeasterners.
Adults with children at home are no more likely than others to use sunscreen — not a good example for the kids. The dermatology academy says people get as much as 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure by age 18 (summers off from school will do that).
The Centers for Disease Control advises, "Young people need to know that the risk of getting skin cancer later can be greatly reduced if they start protecting their skin from the sun now."
This ABCNEWS.com survey was conducted by telephone Aug.1-5 among a random national sample of 1,023 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.
Previous ABCNEWS polls can be found in our Poll Vault.