The purpose of this study was to define a correlation between telomerase activity and human papillomavirus (HPV) in normal control tissue and in benign, premalignant and malignant cervical lesions. Telomerase activity was detectable in 33 out of 34 cases of squamous-cell carcinoma, five out of six cases of microinvasive carcinoma, 8 out of 20 cases and two out of six cases of high- and low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (SILs) respectively. The higher frequency of positive telomerase in invasive carcinoma compared with SILs was observed in both HPV-associated and non-associated groups. Whereas 92.6% of HPV-positive and 100% of HPV-negative invasive lesions expressed telomerase, only 50% of HPV-positive and 25% of HPV-negative SILs did. Interestingly, telomerase activity was also detectable in 13 out of 28 cases of benign lesions regardless of the presence of HPV. In conclusion, there may be two roles of telomerase in the cervix. The first one would present in benign lesions; the second is associated with cancer development and activated during the late stage of multistep carcinogenesis in both HPV-positive and -negative groups.