PURPOSE: The prognosis for early gastric cancer (EGC) is favorable, and the 10-year disease-specific survival rate is reported to be around 90%. The absolute number of recurred EGC is too small to assess the risk factors, so recruitment of a large number of cases for statistical analysis is very difficult. We carried out this study to analyze the incidence and the patterns of recurrence of EGC and to identify the clinicopathological risk factors for recurrence of EGC. METHODS: The authors retrospectively investigated the follow- up records of 1,418 patients who underwent a curative resection for EGC from Jan. 1984 to Dec. 1999 at the Korea Cancer Center Hospital and analyzed them with special reference to cancer recurrence. RESULTS: In this retrospective study of 1418 cases, 43 patients died of a recurrence of gastric cancer, and 105 patients died of unrelated causes. The five-year and the ten-year overall survival rates were 89.6% and 81.7%, respectively, while the five-year and the ten-year disease-specific survival rates were 96.5% and 94.3%, respectively. The recurrence patterns of the 45 recurred EGC were hematogenous metastasis (19 cases), lymph node (L/N) metastasis (8 cases), locoregional recurrence (2 cases), peritoneal seeding (3 cases), and combined form (13 cases). The mean time interval to recurrence was 38.6 months, and the number of delayed recurred cases after 5 years was 10 (22.2%). Of the clinicopathologic factors, depth of invasion, L/N metastasis, macroscopic type, lymphatic invasion, and vessel invasion, were significant risk factors in the univariate analysis. However, in the multivariate analysis, only L/N metastasis was an independent prognostic factor. CONCLUSION: Based on the results of this study, L/N metastasis is an independent prognostic factor. Thus, in patients with node-positive disease, adjuvant therapy might be considered, and long-term close follow-up might facilitate early detection and treatment of recurrent disease due to delayed recurrence.