Matrilysin is one of matrix metalloproteinases, which is supposed to have a specific role in tumor progression. Expression of matrilysin was investigated in gastric and esophageal cancers by an immunohistochemical examination. Matrilysin was expressed in all esophageal squamous cell carcinomas (13/13) and in the majority of gastric adenocarcinomas (31/35, 89%). The positive staining was observed in tumor cells of cancerous tissues. In gastric cancers, there were significant statistical correlations between matrilysin expression at the invasive front and nodal metastasis or advanced stage. These results suggest that overexpression of matrilysin has an important role in the progression of upper gastrointestinal cancers.