Between January 1971 and December 1986, 55 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue base underwent complete surgical resection with curative intent. No preoperative or postoperative adjuvant therapy was administered. The study group consisted of 41 men and 14 women (median age 61 years). All patients were followed until death (39 patients) or for a median of 9.4 years. Local control at 5 years was 74%. No predictors of local recurrence were discovered. Control in the dissected neck at 5 years was 68%. Control of cancer above the clavicles at 5 years was 48%. Distant metastases developed in 14% of the patients by 5 years. Cause-specific survival at 5 years was 65%. A Cox multivariate regression analysis revealed that pathologic N stage was the only significant independent predictor of recurrence in the dissected neck, recurrence above the clavicles, and cause-specific survival. The 5-year overall survival was 55%. Surgical mortality was 4%.