Cytokeratin (CK) 13 is an intermediate filament protein that is expressed in a cell-type-specific manner, in the tongue and occasionally in tongue squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Correlations between the clinical features of patients with SCC and CK13 expression in the tumor are here investigated along with CK13's utility as a marker for tongue cancer status. Samples from 121 patients with SCC of the tongue were examined by immunohistochemistry with antibodies against CK13. Correlations between the expression level of CK13 in the tumor and the patients' clinical features were statistically analyzed by univariate and multivariate methods. Univariate analysis showed a more relevant number of local recurrence (P = 0.04) in CK13-negative staining patients. In addition, CK13-negative cases were associated with local recurrence by multiple logistic regression analysis (OR: 3.36; 95% CI: 1.044-10.78; P = 0.04). Our results suggest that the loss of CK13 expression indicates tumors with a high potential for recurrence, and thus CK13 could be useful for determining the best course of treatment.