E-cadherin (E-CD), a Ca(2+)-dependent adhesion molecule, plays a major role in the maintenance of intercellular junctions in normal epithelial cells in most organs. The expression of E-CD in human carcinoma samples (esophagus, stomach, and breast) was investigated using immunohistochemical staining, which was performed on surgical specimens using a monoclonal antibody for human E-CD. E-cadherin was strongly expressed in all normal epithelium examined. However E-CD expression in primary tumors of esophagus (11 of 15: 73%), stomach (5 of 20: 25%), and breast (9 of 20: 45%) was reduced, and 68% of these (esophagus: 8 of 11, stomach: 4 of 5, breast: 5 of 9) displayed heterogeneous E-CD expression. In some tumor cells with reduced E-CD expression, E-CD molecules were located in the cell cytoplasm. These results indicate that there are human cancer cells in which E-CD-related intercellular adhesion is impaired.