Only few reports on the prognostic significance of telomerase activity in human cancer exist. To find a new prognostic marker in soft tissue tumors, we investigated 60 soft tissue sarcomas of different histology and six benign tumors for telomerase activity. Telomerase activity was measured by using the non-radioactive PCR-based TRAP-assay. PCR products were analyzed on an automated fluorescence sequencer. Tumors of grade-II and grade-III histology showed a significantly poorer prognosis. Both disease-free (p<0.03) and the overall survival (p<0.02) were reduced in the highly malignant sarcoma patients. We found telomerase activity in 38.3% of the cases, there being a correlation with a more aggressive behavior of soft tissue sarcomas. Telomerase activity correlated with the grade of malignancy (p=0.04), but not with sex (p=0.64) or age (p=0. 48) of the patients. The total survival was significantly reduced in patients with telomerase-positive sarcomas (p=0.04). Both of the patients having grade I tumors with telomerase activity died of disease, whereas 10 of 11 patients with telomerase-negative grade I tumors are still alive. Only one of the benign tumors showed telomerase activity. We suggest that telomerase activity is a potential prognostic factor in malignant soft tissue tumors. Despite the histological heterogeneity of soft tissue tumors, single entities should be assessed for telomerase activity.