To assess the potential benefit of R2 gastrectomy for patients with early gastric cancer, complications and long-term survival of patients who underwent conventional resection with limited lymphadenectomy (R1 gastrectomy) were analysed retrospectively. Resection margins of all 46 consecutive patients were free from tumour. Tumours were limited to the mucosa in 35 patients and infiltrated the submucosa in 11. Positive lymph nodes were found in two patients. The 30-day mortality was two patients, and cardiac and pulmonary complications occurred in five and six respectively. Anastomotic leakage developed in two patients. During 5 years of follow-up two patients died from tumour recurrence; one of these had lymph node metastases at the initial resection. Resection with limited lymphadenectomy for early gastric cancer results in a 91 per cent 5-year survival rate without the need for R2 gastrectomy with its probably higher morbidity and mortality.