Advances in perioperative management have allowed more and more elderly patients to undergo major surgery with postoperative morbidity and mortality rates comparable to those of younger individuals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of age on the clinical outcome and long-term survival of patients with esophageal carcinoma undergoing esophagectomy. Nine-hundred patients with esophageal carcinoma were divided into two groups: A (n = 403) with age > or = 65 years, and B (n = 497) with age < 65 years. One-hundred and fifty three (38%) patients of group A underwent surgery compared to 272 (55%) of group B (P < 0.01). Postoperative mortality, and the prevalence of anastomotic leak and respiratory complications were similar in both groups; conversely, there was a higher prevalence of cardiovascular complications in group A (13% vs 3%, P < 0.01). Five-year survival was about 35% in both groups. In conclusion, advanced age should no longer be considered an absolute contraindication to esophagectomy for carcinoma in selected patients. In fact, the postoperative mortality and long-term survival rates of elderly patients undergoing resection are comparable to that of younger individuals.