Endoscopic laser therapy (ELT) for palliation of cancer of the esophagus and the gastroesophageal junction was evaluated in 31 patients with far advanced disease. Initial technical success (94%) and initial improvement of symptoms (81%) were comparable to data reported previously. Complications were bleeding (6%), sepsis (6%), and tracheoesophageal fistula (6%). This analysis, however, addressed the impact of ELT on the remaining life of the patients. In 9 patients (29%) ELT was the only palliative alternative, and in 7 of these patients a fair functional success was achieved. In 13/21 (63%) of the patients with good initial functional result palliation could be preserved by repeated ELT until death from cachexia. Eight patients, however, were intubated in the follow-up period because of failure to keep the esophagus open. The dysphagia-free interval was only 4 weeks, and repeated ELT became progressively more difficult because of increased tumor load and increasing debility of the patient. 32% of the patients experienced ELT as more difficult than repeated dilations. Our data also suggest that duration of palliation after ELT alone lasts longer than palliation after dilation followed by ELT. Results of ELT were best in patients with recurrent cancer at the esophagogastric or esophagojejunal anastomosis.