The ultrastructure and clinical significance of the basement membrane (BM) are still unclear in esophageal cancer. In this report, we examined the ultrastructure of the BM and microstructures related intercellular adhesion in squamous cell carcinoma of human esophagus using a transmission electron microscope, and investigated their clinical significance. BM was absent in 38% of the examined cases and the frequency or the presence of the microstructures of cancer cells of the infiltrating margin (CCIM) was negatively related to the presence of BM (BM-P); CCIM of BM-P tumors often had smaller number per cell of desmosomes and cytoplasmic processes. These results indicate that CCIM of BM-P tumor are in an 'inconvenient status' for tumor cells to form a firm group. In the intercellular space between CCIM and BM or surrounding stromal cells, all of the CCIM of BM-P tumors had hemidesmosomes, but not those of BM absent (BM-A) tumors. Though no statistical significant difference was found in our clinical observation between BM-P and BM-A tumors, the present study suggested that a considerable proportion of cancer cells have abnormal intercellular adhesiveness via a mechanical mechanism related to the presence or absence of BM.