The purpose of this study is to investigate the clinical and histopathologic significance of hypoxia-inducible-factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha) expression in oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. One hundred and thirty surgically resected specimens of OSCC were immunohistochemically assessed for HIF-1alpha expression with monoclonal antibody. High HIF-1alpha immunostaining was detected in 40 specimens. The percentage of high HIF-1alpha expression cases increased with tumour stage according to pTNM system. High HIF-1alpha expression correlated with pTNM stage, depth of tumour invasion, lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, lymphatic invasion and positive surgical margin. The overall survival rate was worse in patients with high HIF-1alpha pattern than in patients with low-expression pattern. Univariate analyses identified high HIF-1alpha positivity, depth of tumour invasion, lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis, lymphatic invasion, and a positive surgical margin as risk factors. Multivariate analyses indicated that depth of tumour invasion, lymph node metastasis and positive surgical margin, but not HIF-1alpha, were independent prognostic factors. Survival in patients with a high HIF-1alpha expression was significantly worse than in those with low expression in patient treated with adjuvant therapy.