An increase in the number of blood gammadelta T cells follows cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in kidney transplant recipients. These cells react against CMV-infected cells and tumor epithelial cells in vitro. We hypothesized that these CMV-induced gammadelta T cells play a protective role against cancer in kidney transplant recipients. We performed a longitudinal case-control study involving 18 recipients who developed cancer between 2 and 6 yr after transplantation and 45 recipients who did not. The median percentage of gammadelta T cells among total lymphocytes in patients with malignancies was significantly lower compared with that in control patients at 6, 12, and 18 mo before the diagnosis of cancer. Patients with a gammadelta T cell percentage of more than 4% were protected from cancer. An increase of the Vdelta2(neg) gammadelta T cell subset significantly associated with lower incidence of cancer only in recipients who experienced pre- or postgraft CMV infection. Finally, a retrospective follow-up of 131 recipients for 8 yr revealed that CMV-naive recipients had an approximately 5-fold higher risk of cancer compared with CMV-exposed patients. In summary, these results suggest a protective role of CMV exposure against cancer in kidney transplant recipients.