Esophageal cancer is the third most prevalent gastrointestinal malignancy in the world. The tumor responds poorly to various therapeutic regimens and the genetic events underlying esophageal carcinogenesis are not well understood. To identify overall chromosomal aberrations in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, we performed comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). All 17 tumor samples were found to exhibit multiple gains and losses involving different chromosomal regions. The frequency of chromosomal loss associated with this type of tumor was as follows: in 2q (100%), 3p (100%), 13q (100%), Xq (94%), 4 (82%), 5q (82%), 18q (76%), 9p (76%), 6q (70%), 12q (70%), 14q (65%), 11q (59%), and 1p (53%). Interstitial deletions on 1p, 3p, 5q, 6q, 11q, and 12q were detected also. Chromosomal gains were displayed by chromosomes and chromosome areas: 19 (100%), 20q (94%), 22 (94%), 16p (65%), 17 (59%), 12q (59%), 8q (53%), 9q (53%), and 3q (50%). Two sites showing apparent amplification were 11q (70%) and 5p15 (47%). To validate the CGH data, we isolated a BAC clone mapping to 18q12.1. This clone was used as a probe in interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization of tumor touch preparations and allelic loss was clearly revealed. This study represents the first whole-genome analysis in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma for associated chromosomal aberrations that may be involved in either the genesis or progression of this malignancy.