Abstract Detection of telomerase activity can differentiate malignant from benign cells. However, the original telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) methods had a number of limitations including a radioisotope labeling [α 32P] dCTP [α 32P] dGTP system. We developed digoxigenin labeled CX primer to detect telomerase activity without using radioisotope and attempted to detect telomerase activity of bladder tumor and exfoliated cells in bladder cancer patients. Telomerase activity was detected in 5 (71%) of 7 patients diagnosed with grade 1, 31 (97%) of 32 grade 2, and 11 (100%) of 11 grade 3 bladder tumors. In urinary exfoliated cells, 32 (82%) of 39 grades 1 or 2 bladder tumors were positive for telomerase activity but 20 (51%) of 39 were positive for urinary cytology ( P < 0.01). Ten (91%) of 11 of grade 3 tumors were positive for telomerase activity and 11 (100%) of 11 were positive urinary cytology. Three of 100 noncancerous patients were positive for telomerase activity. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value of telomerase activity assay in urinary exfoliated cells were 84%, 97%, and 93%, respectively. Telomerase activity may be a useful diagnostic marker to detect the existence of immortal cancer cells in the urine.