Errors in chromosome segregation during mitosis result in aneuploidy, which in humans may play a role in the onset of neoplasia by changing gene dosage. Nearly all solid tumors exhibit genomic instability at the chromosomal level, showing both structural and numerical chromosome abnormalities. Chromosomal instability occurs early in the development of cancer and may represent an important step in the initiation and/or progression of the disease. Telomere integrity appears to be a critical element in the genesis of structural chromosome imbalances, but it is still not clear whether it can also generate numerical chromosome aberrations. We investigated the possible relationship between telomere shortening and aneuploidy formation in human mammary epithelial cells using the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay combined with fluorescent DNA probes. In this cell system, uncapped chromosomes fuse with each other resulting in dicentric chromosomes, which are known to be a source of new structural chromosome rearrangements. Here, we show that in primary epithelial cells, the chromosomes with short telomeres are more frequently involved in missegregation events than chromosomes of normal telomere length. Whole chromosome aneuploidy occurs through both nondisjunction and anaphase lagging of dicentric chromatids, which suggests that pulling anaphase bridges toward opposite poles can generate the necessary force for detaching a chromosome from the microtubules of one or both spindle poles. Therefore, telomere-driven instability can promote not only the appearance of chromosomal rearrangements but also the appearance of numerical chromosome aberrations that could favor cell immortalization and the acquisition of a tumor phenotype. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.