Early endoscopic diagnosis improves the prognosis of patients with gastric cancer, as shown by the finding that 5-year survival rates exceeding 90% are observed in Japanese patients with early gastric cancer. It has been hypothesized that tumor size may have prognostic significance; therefore, a distinction between minute, small, and large early gastric cancers has been proposed. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of minute and small early gastric cancers in Western countries and to compare their clinicopathologic features with those of large early gastric cancers. Of 465 Italian patients with gastric cancer who were studied, 20.5% had an early gastric cancer, and 34.7% of these were minute or small. Tumor size is correlated with intramural spreading and metastasis to perigastric lymph nodes. Nodal involvement occurs more frequently in the diffuse than in the intestinal type of early gastric cancer. Long-term survival rate is not correlated with tumor size, intramural spreading, or nodal metastasis. The minute and small early gastric cancers of Italian patients are indistinguishable from those occurring in Japanese patients. These lesions are more common than previously thought and should be carefully searched for by endoscopists. The correlation of tumor size with intramural invasion and perigastric lymph node metastasis suggests that minute and small early gastric cancers are precursors of large early gastric cancers. Although the distinction between minute, small, and large early gastric cancers is of low prognostic value, the distinction might be useful for selecting different therapeutic approaches.