Although previous reports indicate that nocturnal plasma melatonin secretion declines with age, some recent findings do not support this point. In the present cross-sectional study, we documented serum melatonin concentrations at two time points, 02:00 and 08:00 h, in 144 persons aged 30-110 yr and found a significant age-related decline. It began around the age of 60 and reached a very significantly lower level in subjects in their 70s and over 80 yr of age (P < 0.01, when compared with age <60 yr). Nocturnal melatonin levels were higher among (post-menopausal only) women than men overall (P < 0.05). In the older age-groups, nocturnal melatonin levels did not differ between healthy controls and subjects with high blood pressure or ischemic heart disease. To further check these results, we also assessed the circadian pattern of serum melatonin in four subgroups of healthy men, aged 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60-69 yr: blood samples were taken at 2 h intervals from 08:00 to 22:00 h and hourly from 22:00 to 08:00 h. Our results showed generally similar circadian melatonin patterns that peaked at night with very low levels during the daytime. No significant difference was found among the three younger groups, but nocturnal melatonin levels were significantly lower in the men in their 60s.