Claudins are transmembrane proteins that seal tight junctions, bind with peripheral protein zonula occludens (ZO)-1, and are known to play an important role in several normal tissues and cancers. However, the role of claudin-1 and claudin-7 expressions in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma remains to be clarified. In the present study, we confirmed the expressions of claudin-1, claudin-7, and ZO-1 in the prickle cell layer of the normal human esophageal squamous epithelium. The expressions of claudin-1 and claudin-7 at the invasive front of the esophageal squamous cell carcinoma were analyzed immunohistochemically to clarify their role in tumor progression. Reduced expression of claudin-7 at the invasive front of the esophageal cancer was significantly associated with the depth of invasion (P = .004), stage (P = .038), lymphatic vessel invasion (P = .001), and lymph node metastasis (P = .014). In contrast, significant association was not detected between claudin-1 expression and clinicopathologic factors except for histologic differentiation of the tumor (P = .0029). Comparison of claudin-7 expression at the invasive front of the primary tumor and its corresponding metastatic lymph nodes revealed significant reduction in claudin-7 expression in the metastatic lymph nodes (P = .007). These results suggest that the reduced expression of claudin-7 at the invasive front of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma may lead to tumor progression and subsequent metastatic events. Thus, claudin-7 can be a novel marker for the prediction of lymph node metastasis.