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To investigate the relationship between the long interspersed nucleotide element-1 (L1/LINE-1) methylation level and the disease-free survival and cancer-specific survival in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).Cancer cells exhibit 2 types of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation alterations: global DNA hypomethylation and site-specific CpG island promoter hypermethylation. Global DNA hypomethylation plays a role in genomic instability and carcinogenesis. DNA methylation in the LINE-1 repetitive element is a good indicator of the global DNA methylation level. Although the LINE-1 methylation level is attracting interest as a useful marker for predicting cancer prognosis, the prognostic significance of LINE-1 hypomethylaiton in ESCC remains unclear.Using 217 curatively resected ESCC specimens, we quantified the LINE-1 methylation by utilizing the bisulfite pyrosequencing technology. Promoter methylation levels of MGMT and MLH1 were also evaluated by pyrosequencing.ESCC showed significantly lower LINE-1 methylation levels in comparison with matched normal esophageal mucosa (P < 0.0001; N = 50). LINE-1 hypomethylation was significantly associated with disease-free survival [log-rank P = 0.0008; univariate hazard ratio (HR): 2.32, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.38–3.84, P = 0.0017; multivariate HR: 1.81, 95% CI: 1.06–3.05, P = 0.031] and cancer-specific survival (log-rank P = 0.0020; univariate HR: 2.21, 95% CI: 1.33–3.60, P = 0.0026; multivariate HR: 1.87, 95% CI: 1.12–3.08, P = 0.018]. MGMT and MLH1 hypermethylation were not associated with patient prognosis.LINE-1 hypomethylation in ESCC is associated with a shorter survival, thus suggesting that it has potential for use as a prognostic biomarker.