The purpose of this study was to assess the prognostic effect of the expression of E-cadherin, beta-catenin and CD44 adhesion molecules in bladder carcinoma. 22 superficial and 18 invasive bladder tumour samples were studied by immunohistochemistry. The median follow-up was 24 months (range: 1-50 months). Loss of E-cadherin and beta-catenin immunoreactivity was found in 14 (35%) and 17 (43%) tumours, respectively, and was significantly associated with invasiveness, high grade and p53 overexpression. There was no correlation between CD44 variant expression and clinicopathological findings. Loss of E-cadherin expression was an independent predictor of poor survival in a multivariate analysis, when assessed with age, grade, stage and p53 status (hazards ratio adjusted (HRa)=4.45 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.06-18.63]). This effect was particularly augmented in patients with invasive bladder cancer. When expression of E-cadherin and beta-catenin were evaluated simultaneously, loss of immunoreactivity of both proteins was a strong predictor of poor survival (HRa=13.06 [95% CI, 0.95-178.55]). The same pattern was found when progression-free survival in relation to these variables was assessed. In conclusion, assessment of E-cadherin and beta-catenin immunoreactivity may be a useful prognostic marker in bladder cancer complementary to established prognostic factors.