Carcinoma of the esophagus shows a strong male predominance and other epidemiologic differences from cancers arising at other sites. In this study, the prevalence of Y chromosome loss in 29 carcinomas of the esophagus and 53 carcinomas arising elsewhere in the aerodigestive tract was assessed by in situ hybridization of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections. Absence of the Y chromosome was defined as (1) negative staining for Y in neoplastic cells with positive staining for Y in immediately adjacent nonneoplastic epithelial and stromal cells, (2) positive staining of neoplastic cells with control probes for chromosomes X and 17, and (3) similar results at different stringencies and levels of protein digestion. According to these criteria, absence of the Y chromosome was observed in 13 of 14 (93%) adenocarcinomas of the esophagus, 8 of 13 (62%) squamous cell carcinomas of the esophagus, and 5 of 53 (9%) carcinomas arising in other sites. For the neoplasms examined, Y chromosome deletion was strongly and selectively associated with carcinomas, particularly adenocarcinomas, of the esophagus (P < .0001). These findings suggest that Y chromosome loss may be pathogenetically significant in these neoplasms.