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Early gastric cancer (EGC) is associated with better prognosis than advanced cancer of the stomach. Unfortunately, EGC accounts for a minority of operated gastric cancers in Europe. The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical characteristics of EGC and the outcome after surgery.The study group comprised 94 EGC patients having undergone surgery at Helsinki University Central Hospital between April 1983 and July 2007.The overall 5-year survival rate of EGC patients was 92.4%. Tumor location in the upper part of the stomach and mixed histological type impaired the prognosis (p = 0.043 and 0.008, respectively). The probability of lymph node metastasis was significantly higher when the tumor infiltrated gastric submucosa rather than mucosa (p = 0.012). Existence of lymph node or distant metastases decreased the survival rates (both p < 0.001). Total gastrectomy, pancreatic resection, and extended D2 lymph node dissection increased the complication rate, but did not have effect on survival.The overall prognosis of EGC is favorable. The survival rates of EGC decreased when the tumor was located in the upper part of the stomach or was of mixed histological type, or the patient had lymph node or distant metastasis.