The repair of DNA damage by ultraviolet light is defective in the hereditary disease xeroderma pigmentosum. A deoxyribonucleotide excision-proficient form and several excision-deficient forms of xeroderma pigmentosum have been identified. Premature solar skin damage develops in all xeroderma pigmentosum patients. Some patients also have neurological abnormalities caused by premature death of nerve cells. This abnormal aging of the central nervous system and of sun-exposed skin appears to be the result of the abnormal DNA repair processes. Clinical, biological, and physicochemical studies on DNA-repair-dependent processes and on the DNA repair defects in xeroderma pigmentosum are elucidating the mechanisms by which such abnormal aging is prevented in normal human beings.