Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is highly prevailing in Asia and it is ranked in the most aggressive squamous cell carcinomas. High-frequency loss of heterozygosity occurred in chromosome 14q11.2 in many tumors including ESCC, suggesting that one or more tumor-suppressor genes might exist within this region. In this study, we identified the tumor-suppressing role of DHRS2 (short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase family, member 2) at 14q11.2 in ESCCs. Downregulation of DHRS2 occurred in 30.8% of primary ESCC tumor tissues vs paired non-tumorous tissues. DHRS2 downregulation was associated significantly with ESCC invasion, lymph nodes metastasis and clinical staging (P < 0.001). Survival analysis revealed that DHRS2 downregulation was significantly associated with worse outcome of patients with ESCC. In vitro and in vivo studies indicated that both DHRS2 variants could suppress cell proliferation and cell motility. Moreover, we demonstrated that DHRS2 could reduce reactive oxygen species and decrease nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (oxidized/reduced), increase p53 stability and decrease Rb phosphorylation; it also decreased p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation and matrix metalloproteinase 2. In summary, these findings demonstrated that DHRS2 had an important part in ESCC development and progression.