The skin has an unusual set of immunologic requirements. It is confronted by a specialized set of pathogenic organisms and environmental chemicals that represent a distinctive spectrum of antigenic specificities. Skin is subjected to physicochemical stresses such as irradiation with ultraviolet light that alter dramatically its immunologic properties. It is proposed that nature has provided skin with a unique collection of lymphoid cells, reticular cells, and organized lymphoid organs to deal with these special demands. Evidence in favor of the existence of skin-associated lymphoid tissues (SALT) includes (1) the cutaneous microenvironment is capable on its own of accepting, processing, and presenting nominal antigen; (2) strategically located peripheral lymph nodes are able to accept immunogenic signals derived from skin; (3) subsets of T lymphocytes display differential affinity for skin and its associated peripheral nodes; and (4) acquisition of this affinity by T cells is determined at least in part by differentiation signals received in situ from resident cutaneous cells. Responsibility for the establishment and integration of SALT rests with keratinocytes, Langerhans cells, and immunocompetent lymphocytes, each of which contributes uniquely to the synthesis. Together they provide skin with immune surveillance that effectively prejudices against the development of cutaneous neoplasms and persistent infection with intracellular pathogens. In patients who have been under long-term immunosuppressive therapy, the large majority of nonlymphoid malignancies arise within the skin, rather than other types of tissues. These data suggest that immune surveillance, once thought to be an immune defense operative in all somatic tissues, is a specialized immune function dedicated to the skin and mediated by SALT.