This contribution will address the effect of aging on skin functions, with a particular focus on skin permeability, wound healing, angiogenesis, lipogenesis, sweat production, immune function, and vitamin D synthesis. With accelerating age, skin functions deteriorate due to structural and morphologic changes. Skin is prone to the development of several diseases, varying from benign to malignant. Because the number of persons aged 80 and older is expected to rise in the next decades, disease prevention will become an important issue. Screening examinations and prevention through public education starting at an early age regarding sun avoidance, the use of sunscreens and the importance of a balanced nutrition are the first steps for successful healthy aging. Although the fundamental mechanisms in the pathogenesis of aged skin are still poorly understood, a growing body of evidence points toward the involvement of multiple pathways. Recent data obtained by expression profiling studies and studies of progeroid syndromes illustrate that among the most important biologic processes involved in skin aging are alterations in DNA repair and stability, mitochondrial function, cell cycle and apoptosis, extracellular matrix, lipid synthesis, ubiquitin-induced proteolysis and cellular metabolism. Among others, a major factor that has been implicated in the initiation of aging is the physiologic decline of hormones occurring with age. However, hormones at age-specific levels may regulate not only age-associated mechanisms but also tumor suppressor pathways that influence carcinogenesis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of aging may open new strategies to deal with the various diseases accompanying high age, including cancer.
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