Vice President Gore yesterday endorsed giving federal employees time off from work each year for screenings to detect cancer and other ailments. He directed the Office of Personnel Management to study the idea and report back within 90 days.

Gore outlined his proposal during a White House appearance with Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor and winner of the 1999 Tour de France bicycle race. Gore said he hopes the government could create a program to promote preventive screening that would not only help civil service workers but also serve as a model for private-sector employers.

The vice president cited a program started by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino two years ago that gives city employees up to four hours per year to use for cancer screenings. The hours are not counted toward employees' sick, personal or vacation time.

OPM officials said existing policies allow Cabinet and agency heads to give excused absences to civil service employees for physical fitness and health needs. They suggested that the policies could be adapted to allow paid time off for preventive screenings while limiting the number of hours that workers are away from their jobs.

"As the nation's largest employer, we want to do all we can to encourage federal employees to take advantage of life-saving screenings for cancer and other diseases that can be successfully treated through early detection," OPM Director Janice R. Lachance said.

Gore also noted that July marked the first anniversary of the breast cancer research stamp, the nation's first postage stamp that provides funding for a charitable cause. Gore said the sale of the stamp has raised more than $7.8 million for breast cancer research.

CAPTION: President Clinton thanks Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong for his gift: a replica of the bike he rode.