BACKGROUND/AIMS: Beta-catenin is known to perform two unrelated functions in cadherin-mediated cell to cell adhesion system and Wnt pathway. Recent studies reported cytoplasmic and nuclear accumulation of beta-catenin by Wnt signaling and/or abnormal Wnt pathway in cancer cells. Nuclear accumulations of beta-catenin have a crucial role in early tumor growth and initiation of invasive growth in gastric cancer. METHODS: We carried out clinicopathological and immunohistochemical studies for beta-catenin, p53, E-cadherin, and Ki-67 in the specimens from 60 early gastric cancer patients who were treated with curative resections. RESULTS: Twenty-five (41.7%) and twenty-nine (48.3%) cases showed a nuclear and cytoplasmic expression of beta-catenin, respectively. There were significant correlations between nuclear expression of beta-catenin and well-differentiated and intestinal type of early gastric carcinoma. Cytoplasmic expression of beta-catenin had significant correlations with nuclear expression of beta-catenin (p=0.011). CONCLUSIONS: Nuclear expression of beta-catenin is significantly influenced by histological grade, Lauren classification and cytoplasmic expression of beta-catenin in early gastric cancer. These findings suggest that nuclear expression of beta-catenin is correlated with early tumorigenesis and initiation of invasive growth in gastric cancer.