Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a good marker of colorectal cancer. Recent studies have demonstrated that CEA may function as a metastatic potentiator by different pathways; i.e. modulation of immune responses, facilitation of intercellular adhesion and cellular migration. However, expression patterns of CEA have not yet been established in human esophageal carcinomas. In this study, we examined CEA expression in human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and its clinicopathological significance. CEA immunoreactivity was frequently detected in the cancer cells (cytoplasmic type; 81.1%, 43/53) as well as in the cancer stroma (stromal type; 32.1%, 17/53), regardless of the depth of tumor invasion. Lymphatic invasion of cancer cells was frequently found in the stromal CEA-positive esophageal cancer (44.4%, 16/36), compared to stromal CEA-negative cancer (5.9%, 1/17) (p<0.05). These observations suggested that stromal CEA expression plays important roles in lymphatic invasion of human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.