The clinicopathological features of 748 solitary early gastric cancers were examined with regard to lymph node metastasis. Among several factors, only depth of invasion and tumour size correlated significantly with node involvement. Tumours which satisfy the following criteria may not metastasize to lymph nodes: (1) confined to the mucosa; (2) less than 1.5 cm in diameter; (3) macroscopically elevated; (4) macroscopically depressed, without intramural ulcers or ulcer scars (endoscopically, no fold convergence); and (5) histologically differentiated. With a recently developed endoscopic technique small gastric tumours can safely be resected. The cut margin and depth of tumour invasion can be verified histologically in the specimen. If an endoscopically removed tumour satisfies the above criteria, further surgical intervention may be optional as the outcome of endoscopic resection is comparable to that of radical surgery in the absence of node involvement.