Despite antiproliferative effects of melatonin on cultured tumor cells, its effects on normal cells are less clear. The action of melatonin on telomerase activity in ageing of gastric mucosal tissues also is not known. In this study, we investigated the age-related changes in telomerase activity and cellular proliferation rate of gastric mucosa and the effect of melatonin. A total of 37 young (4 months old), and aged (20 months old) Wistar rats, kept under equal periods of light and dark, were divided into control [(PBS), i.p. for 21 days] and melatonin-treated (10 mg/kg melatonin, i.p. for 21 days) groups. Telomerase activity, cell proliferation rate, malondialdehyde (MDA) and glutathione (GSH) levels of the stomach were determined. Melatonin significantly inhibited the gastric mucosal proliferation rate of both young and aged rats. Telomerase activity was significantly reduced in aged rats compared to young animals. Melatonin significantly increased the telomerase activity of both young and aged rats. The MDA levels of gastric mucosa in the aged rats were significantly higher than those of the younger rats. On the contrary, the GSH levels of gastric mucosa of the aged group were significantly lower than that of the young rats. While melatonin had no effect on GSH levels of either young or aged rats, it significantly decreased the MDA levels in aged animals. In conclusion, melatonin may delay the ageing of gastric mucosa by inhibiting the replicative cellular senescence via its stimulatory effect on telomerase activity and suppressive effect on cellular proliferation and lipid peroxidation.