This paper characterizes the distribution of telomere length on individual chromosome arms in humans. By fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), followed by computer-assisted analysis of digital images, it is shown that the distribution of telomere length on individual chromosome arms is not random, but that humans have a common telomere profile. This profile exists in lymphocytes, amniocytes and fibroblasts, and seems to be conserved during life. A closer look at the overall pattern of the profile shows that the length of the telomeres in general follows the total chromosome length. In addition to the common profile, it is found that each person has specific characteristics, which are also conserved throughout life. Studying both twins and families we have obtained indications that these individual characteristics are at least partly inherited. Altogether, our results suggest that the length of individual telomeres might occasionally play a role in the heritability of life span.