A series of squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) of the hypopharynx treated with combined surgery and radiotherapy is presented to highlight the results of treatment at an early stage of disease. A retrospective mono-institutional analysis was performed on 153 previously untreated patients with SCC of the hypopharynx, seen between 1980 and 1995 at our institution. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed using the Cox proportional hazard model. The overall five-year specific, and non-specific, disease survival rates were 68 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval, CI: 60–77) and 47 per cent (95 per cent CI: 39–56), respectively. Compared with other series, this study is characterized by treatment at an earlier stage, better prognosis, and a higher number of multiple malignancies. Twenty-two per cent of hypopharyngeal SCCs were diagnosed during the staging procedures for a different head and neck SCC and 14 per cent during the follow-up for a previous tumour. Multivariate survival analysis of clinical and pathological factors confirmed the clinical class of tumour (T) and node (N) and the nodal capsular rupture as prognosticators of disease.