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This study was designed to compare the outcomes of laparoscopic anterior resection with open operation for mid and upper rectal cancer.A total of 265 patients who underwent elective laparoscopic or open anterior resection for cancer of the mid and upper rectum from June 2000 to December 2004 were included. Data about the patients' demographics, operative details, postoperative outcome, and disease status were collected prospectively. Comparison of the outcome between laparoscopic and open resection was performed.The median age of the 265 patients was 69 (range, 27-91) years, and laparoscopic anterior resection was performed in 98 patients (37 percent). There was no difference in the age, gender, comorbidities, and level of tumor between the two groups. The operating time was longer in the laparoscopic group (200vs.127 minutes;P< 0.01), but the blood loss was less (200vs.250 ml;P= 0.027). The overall operative mortality was 1.8 percent, and the complication rate was 27.9 percent. Significantly more patients with early diseases (Stage I and Stage II) were operated with laparoscopic approach. There was no difference in the mortality or morbidity between the two groups. Anastomotic leakage occurred in five patients with open resection and one with laparoscopic resection (P= 0.418). Patients with laparoscopic resection had an earlier return of bowel function and earlier resumption of diet as well as a shorter median hospital stay (7vs.8 days;P< 0.001). With the median follow-up of the surviving patients for 21.2 months, the three-year local recurrence rates for those with open and laparoscopic resection were 4.9 and 3.3 percent, respectively (P= 0.513). In patients with Stage I and Stage II disease, the three-year cancer-specific survivals for open and laparoscopic resection were 89.8 and 88.6 percent, respectively (P= 0.882), whereas those of patients with Stage III disease were 65.6 and 55.5 percent, respectively (P= 0.911).Laparoscopic anterior resection for mid and proximal rectal cancer is a safe option with short-term advantages compared with open operation. The oncologic outcomes of patients who underwent laparoscopic anterior resection were not compromised, with similar local recurrence rate and the cancer-specific survival rate as patients who underwent open resection.