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Although gastric carcinomas invading the muscularis propria (mp) are classified among advanced-stage cancers in Japan, postoperative survival has been reported to approximate that in early gastric carcinoma. Characteristics of gastric carcinomas invading the mp, therefore, were compared to carcinomas invading only the mucosa (m) or submucosa (sm), and to those invading the subserosa (ss) or serosa (se).We retrospectively compared clinicopathologic findings, prognosis, and cause of death in patients with gastric carcinoma invading mp to those showing the other levels of invasion.Patients with carcinomas invading the mp had larger tumors and more frequent lymph node and hematogenous metastases than those with carcinomas invading only m or sm. Yet they had smaller tumors and less frequent lymph node or peritoneal metastasis than those with carcinomas invading ss or se. Postoperative survival with tumors invading the mp was intermediate between that with carcinoma invading only m or sm and that with subserosal or serosal invasion. Causes of death with tumors invading muscularis were similar to those with carcinomas invading only m or sm.Characteristics of gastric carcinoma invading the mp are intermediate between those of early and advanced carcinoma.