Linxian, China, has one of the highest esophageal-cancer mortality rates in the world. In 1983, esophageal balloon-cytology screening was performed to identify subjects eligible for 2 nutrition-intervention trials in Linxian; 12,877 subjects had cytology slides which were satisfactory for diagnosis. Of the 12,649 subjects with squamous-cell diagnoses, 31% were normal by Chinese cytologic criteria; 38% showed hyperplasia; 21% showed dysplasia 1; 6% showed dysplasia 2; 2% showed near-cancer; and 2% showed cancer. Of the 1,471 subjects with columnar-cell diagnoses, 31% were normal; 44% showed hyperplasia; 16% showed dysplasia 1; 4% showed dysplasia 2; 2% showed near-cancer; and 3% showed cancer. Squamous dysplasia and cancer were more common among females than males, while columnar dysplasia and cancer showed male predominance. The prevalence of dysplasia and cancer of both cell types increased with age. The prevalence of squamous dysplasia was significantly higher than in earlier balloon-cytology screenings in Linxian, probably reflecting changes in cytologic classification.