The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the local immune response, clinicopathological variables and prognosis in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). A total of 377 cases of esophageal SCC without preoperative radiotherapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy were studied. Corrected 5-year survival for pronounced, moderate and sparse immunocyte infiltration was 66%, 43% and 24%, respectively. In multivariate survival analysis, the immunocyte infiltration was an independent prognostic factor for survival (p<0.001). A correlation was found between density of T-cell and macrophage infiltration, depth of tumor invasion and lymph node metastasis using immunohistochemical analysis of the expression of T-cell, B-cell and macrophage markers. The results indicate that the local immunocyte infiltration is a manifestation of the host defense against cancer. It is therefore reasonable to infer that the local immunocyte infiltration in and around the cancer stroma is an important factor in predicting the prognosis of patients with esophageal SCC.