TNM staging of oesophageal cancer provides significant prognostic information but its clinical impact is limited as many patients present with advanced disease (i.e. T3N1). Additional prognostic markers may help separate those with 'good' and 'bad' prognosis tumours and so help with decisions such as selection for adjuvant therapy. p53 and c-erbB-2 overexpression may correlate with poor prognosis in oesophageal cancer, but this is uncertain. This study aimed to investigate the value of these biomarkers as prognostic indicators in resected oesophageal cancer. Two hundred and five oesophageal tumours (127 adenocarcinoma, 78 squamous) resected by a single surgeon between June 1979 and January 1991 were investigated for p53 and c-erbB-2 overexpression using DO-7 and CB-11 immunohistochemistry. Patient survival was analysed by Kaplan-Meir life tables. Median survival was 61 weeks (range: 5-747) and survival diminished significantly with increasing UICC stage (P < 0.0001). Sixty-eight per cent of squamous tumours and 66% of adenocarcinomas overexpressed p53 but there was no statistically significant correlation with prognosis. Twenty-six per cent of squamous tumours and 23% of adenocarcinomas overexpressed c-erbB-2, but again this did not correlate with survival. p53 and c-erbB-2 are commonly overexpressed in oesophageal cancer but do not appear to be related to prognosis in this large series of resected oesophageal cancers and other candidate biomarkers must be sought.