The aim of this study was to assess the prognostic importance of positive peritoneal cytology in early-stage endometrial cancer. All 278 stage I and 53 stage IIIA (without cervical involvement) endometrial cancer patients operated between 1980 and 1996, recorded at the Geneva Cancer registry, were included. Stage IIIA cancers were recategorised into 'cytological' stage IIIA (positive peritoneal cytology alone, n=33) and 'histological' stage IIIA (serosal or adnexal infiltration, n=20). Survival rates were analysed by Kaplan-Meier method and compared using log-rank test. The prognostic importance of cytology was analysed using a Cox model, accounting for other prognostic factors. The 5-year disease-specific survival of cytological stage IIIA cancer was similar to stage I (91 vs 92%) and better than histological stage IIIA cancer (50%, P<0.001). After adjustment for age, myometrial invasion, differentiation and radiotherapy, cytological stage IIIA patients were still at similar risk to die from endometrial cancer compared to stage I patients (hazard ratio (HR) 0.7, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.18-2.3), while histological stage IIIA patients were at a four-fold increased risk to die from their disease (HR 4.2, 95% CI: 1.7-10.3). This population-based study shows that positive peritoneal cytology in itself has no impact on survival of patients with localised endometrial cancer. Based on the present and previous studies, FIGO (Fédération Internationale de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique) might consider reviewing its classification system.