Two hundred and twenty-eight patients with anal carcinoma treated between 1948 and 1984 were reviewed. Of 145 with anal canal carcinoma, 118 were treated by total anorectal excision, nine by local excision and 13 by radiotherapy. Fifteen patients were inoperable. There were five postoperative deaths. Crude and cancer-specific survival rates of 123 patients treated 5 or more years previously were 58 and 64 per cent. These rates for patients undergoing total anorectal excision were 62 and 65 per cent, and local excision 87 and 100 per cent. Eighty-three patients had carcinoma of the anal margin. Of these, 55 were treated by local excision, 18 by total anorectal excision and 20 by radiotherapy. Eight patients were inoperable. Crude and cancer-specific survival rates for 72 patients followed for 5 years were 55 and 57 per cent with respective rates of 65 and 69 per cent after local excision and 36 and 40 per cent after total anorectal excision. The 5-year survival rate of 27 patients with TNM N1 stage was 48 per cent. Histological confirmation was obtained in only nine of these patients, however, but five (55 per cent) survived 5 years after block dissection or radiotherapy. Metachronous lymphadenopathy occurred in 25 patients. The 5-year survival rate in the 23 cases that were histologically confirmed was 35 per cent after block dissection (17 cases) and radiotherapy (four cases). Using a modification of Papillon's T classification for anal canal carcinoma, stage correlated with survival after combining T1 with T2 tumours and T2 with T3 tumours. Five-year survival rates in these groups were 60 and 54 per cent respectively. The TN M-UICC classification for anal margin carcinoma correlated with survival in a similar manner. The 5-year survival rate was 65 per cent for patients with T1 and T2 tumours and 33 per cent for those with T3 and T4 tumours.