PURPOSE: Although robotic surgery was invented to overcome the technical limitations of laparoscopic surgery, the role of a robotic (procto)colectomy (RC) for the treatment of colorectal cancer compared to that of a laparoscopic (procto)colectomy (LC) was not well defined during the initial adoption periods of both procedures. This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy and the safety of a RC for the treatment of colorectal cancer by comparing the authors' initial experiences with both a RC and a LC. METHODS: The first 30 patients treated by using a RC for colorectal cancer from July 2010 to March 2011 were compared with the first 30 patients treated by using a LC for colorectal cancer from December 2006 to June 2007 by the same surgeon. Perioperative variables and short-term outcomes were analyzed. In addition, the 30 RC and the 30 LC cases involved were divided into rectal cancer (n = 17 and n = 12, respectively), left-sided colon cancer (n = 7 and n = 12, respectively) and right-sided colon cancer (n = 6 and n = 6, respectively) for subgroup analyses. RESULTS: The mean operating times for RC and LC were significantly different at 371.8 and 275.5 minutes, respectively, but other perioperative parameters (rates of open conversion, numbers of retrieved lymph node, estimated blood losses, times to first flatus, maximal pain scores before discharge and postoperative hospital stays) were not significantly different in the two groups. Subgroup analyses showed that the mean operative times for a robotic proctectomy and a laparoscopic proctectomy were 396.5 and 298.8 minutes, respectively (P < 0.000). Postoperative complications occurred in five patients in the RC group and in six patients in the LC group (P = 0.739). CONCLUSION: Although the short-term outcomes of a RC during its initial use were better than those of a LC (with the exception of operating time), differences were not found to be significantly different. On the other hand, the longer operation time of a robotic proctectomy compared to that of a laparoscopic proctectomy during the early period may be problematic.