Mechanisms underlying prostate cancer (CaP) initiation and progression are poorly understood. A chromosomal instability mechanism leading to the generation of numerical and structural chromosomal changes has been implicated in the preneoplastic and neoplastic stages of CaP. Telomere dysfunction is one potential mechanism associated with the onset of such instability. To determine whether there was alteration in telomere length and chromosome number, 15 paraffin-embedded prostatectomy specimens were investigated using quantitative peptide nucleic acid (PNA) FISH analysis of representative foci of carcinoma, putative precancerous lesions (high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, HPIN) and nondysplastic prostate epithelium. A significant decrease in telomere length was shown in both HPIN and CaP in comparison with normal epithelium. In addition, elevated rates of aneusomy suggested that increased levels of chromosomal aberrations were associated with decreased telomere length. Moreover, multiple foci of HPIN were shown to have a heterogeneous overall reduction of telomere length. This reduction was more evident in the histologic regions of the prostate containing CaP. Such observations lend support to the hypothesis that telomere erosion may be a consistent feature of CaP oncogenesis and may also be associated with the generation of chromosomal instability that characterizes this malignancy.