The E-cadherin-catenin complex is important for cell-cell adhesion of epithelial cells. Impairment of one or more components of this complex is associated with poor differentiation and increased invasiveness of carcinomas. Oesophageal adenocarcinomas causes early metastases, progress rapidly, and consequently have a poor prognosis. By means of immunohistochemistry, the expression of E-cadherin and alpha- and beta-catenin was studied in 65 oesophageal adenocarcinomas and 15 lymph node metastases. Expression of these proteins was evaluated with respect to clinico-pathological parameters and patient survival. Expression of the proteins was strongly correlated. In carcinomas, reduced expression of E-cadherin, alpha-catenin, and beta-catenin was found in 74, 60, and 72 per cent, respectively. Expression of E-cadherin and alpha-catenin correlated significantly with stage and grade of the carcinomas, whereas expression of beta-catenin correlated only with grade. Reduced expression of all three proteins correlated with shorter patient survival. In contrast to grade, E-cadherin and beta-catenin were significant prognosticators for survival, independent of disease stage. We conclude that in oesophageal adenocarcinomas, decreased expression of E-cadherin, alpha-catenin and beta-catenin are related events. Furthermore, expression of at least E-cadherin and beta-catenin is significantly correlated with poor prognosis.