The telomeric checkpoint is emerging as a critical sensor of cellular damage, playing a major role in human aging and cancer development. In the meantime, telomere biology is rapidly evolving from a basic discipline to a translational branch, capable of providing major hints for biomarker development, risk assessment and targeted treatment of cancer. These advances have a number of implications in the biology of lymphoid tumours. Moreover, there is considerable interest in the potential role of telomeric dysfunction in the wide array of immunological abnormalities, grouped under the definition of ‘immunosenescence’. This review will summarize the impact of recent advances in telomere biology on the physiology and pathology of the B lymphocyte, with special interest in immunosenescence and lymphomagenesis. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.