Chronological ageing and photoageing of the human sebaceous gland

Clin Exp Dermatol. 2001 Oct;26(7):600-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2001.00894.x.


The human sebaceous gland undergoes both extrinsic and intrinsic ageing. The latter is associated with morphological changes and alteration in the sebaceous gland activity. The high androgen-dependent sebum secretion in neonates falls during childhood, starts to rise again during puberty and reaches its maximum in young adults. While the number of sebaceous glands remains the same during life, sebum levels tend to decrease after menopause in females, whereas no major changes appear until the eighth decade of life in men. Reduced androgen levels in aged individuals lead to a slow cellular turnover in the sebaceous glands resulting in hyperplasia of the facial sebaceous glands in advanced age. Ultraviolet radiation and immune suppression (cyclosporin A with corticosteroids) represent cofactors for the development of sebaceous gland hyperplasia. Current molecular findings indicate that overexpression of the ageing-associated gene Smad7 and parathormone-related protein correlate with sebaceous gland hyperplasia, whereas c-myc overexpression is associated with enhanced sebum production. On the other hand, down-regulation of the mismatch repair genes hMLH-1 and hMSH-2 may promote the development of sebaceous gland carcinoma. In addition to spontaneous single tumours, sebaceous gland carcinomas have been reported in immune-suppressed transplant recipients (azathiorpine, cisplatin, cyclosporin A) and in association with the Muir-Torre syndrome. Microsatellite instability with a loss of the mismatch repair gene hMSH-2 has been detected in immune suppressed patients and under photo-induced DNA damage. Topical and systemic oestrogens offer treatment options for skin xerosis in menopausal females. A combination of isotretinoin and interferon-alpha may prevent tumour development in patients with Muir-Torre syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / physiology
  • Animals
  • Ducks
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / etiology
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / adverse effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Rats
  • Sebaceous Gland Neoplasms / etiology
  • Sebaceous Glands / pathology
  • Sebaceous Glands / physiology*
  • Skin Aging / pathology
  • Skin Aging / physiology*
  • Syndrome


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens