Authors writing an oesophageal cancer include adenocarcinoma to a variable extent--between 1 and 75 per cent--but the true incidence of this histological type is about 1 per cent. Most adenocarcinomas are gastric in origin, involving the lower oesophagus, have a lower operative mortality than in the middle or upper one-third of the oesophagus and poorer prognosis than squamous cell carcinoma, but there is no alternative treatment to surgery. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus, separated incompletely but as far as possible, has been analysed by reviewing data on 83 783 patients in 122 paERS. After trying to standardize the data, it appears that of 100 patients with the condition, 58 will be explored and 39 have the tumour resected, of whom 13 will die in hospital. Of the 26 patients leaving hospital with the tumour excised, 18 will survive for 1 year, 9 for 2 years and 4 for 5 years. Oesophageal resection for squamous cell carcinoma has the highest operative mortality of any routinely performed surgical procedure today.