Telomere dysfunction is a crucial event in malignant transformation and tumorigenesis. Telomere length in peripheral blood leukocytes has been associated with lung cancer risk, but the relationship has remained controversial. In this study, we investigated whether the association might be confounded by study of different histological subtypes of lung cancer. We measured relative telomere lengths in patients in a large case-control study of lung cancer and performed stratified analyses according to the two major histologic subtypes [adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)]. Notably, patients with adenocarcinoma had longer telomeres than controls, whereas patients with SCC had shorter telomeres compared with controls. Long telomeres were associated with increased risk of adenocarcinoma, with the highest risk associated with female sex, younger age (<60 years), and lighter smoking (<30 pack-years). In contrast, long telomeres were protective against SCC, particularly in male patients. Our results extend the concept that telomere length affects risk of lung cancer in a manner that differs with histologic subtype.