The postoperative course of 172 patients with early gastric cancer operated between 1974 and 1987 was reviewed with a median follow-up of 7 years. The survival probability at the end of 1989 was 0.916 (excluding operative mortality and other causes of death) or 0.876 when the operative mortality was included. Univariate analysis showed a significant survival difference according to the presence or absence of submucosal invasion (p = 0.02, Log-Rank test) and lymph node invasion (p = 0.04, age greater than or less than 50 years (p = 0.03) and according to the type of resection performed (total gastrectomy with gastric and perigastric lymph node dissection or subtotal gastrectomy with incomplete lymph node dissection (p = 0.05). Eleven patients died from cancer recurrence, one is still alive with a recurrence of the gastric stump. The other deaths were due to cancers of other organs (6), cardiovascular disease (2), pneumonia (3), septicaemia (1) and a car accident. Although the prognosis of early gastric cancer is relatively favourable in European countries, patients must be carefully followed for a long period because of recurrences and the high incidence of cancers in other organs.