The relationship between macroscopic features and the frequency and extent of lymph node metastasis was examined retrospectively in 421 patients with early gastric cancer. Nodal involvement was evident in 48 patients (11.4%): 7 out of 204 (3.4%) with mucosal cancer and 41 out of 217 (19.3%) with submucosal lesions. The incidence of metastasis to perigastric nodes and extraperigastric nodes was 2.9% and 0.5% for mucosal cancer, and 13.8% and 5.1% for submucosal cancer, respectively. There was no metastasis in lesions less than 1 cm in diameter, but the incidence of positive nodes increased with the size of the primary lesion. There was a low incidence of lymph node metastasis associated with lesions confined to the mucosa and less than 3 cm in size, elevated types of I and IIa less than 2 cm, and the flat type of IIb, while types consisting of a depressed portion such as IIc, III, IIc + III, and IIa + IIc often had not only perigastric but also extraperigastric nodal involvement, even when the lesion was small. As early gastric cancer can be cured by surgery, this modality is the treatment of choice. Endoscopic therapy in cases with a low involvement of lymph node metastasis can be considered when the patient is in a poor clinical state of health.