A disintegrin and metalloprotease 10 (ADAM10) is involved in the tumorigenesis, invasion and metastasis of several types of solid tumors. However, the potential role of ADAM10 in human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is not yet well understood. The present study showed that ADAM10 was overexpressed in human ESCC tissues in vivo, and positively associated with depth of tumor invasion, lymph node metastasis and TNM stage, contributing to tumor carcinogenesis, invasion and metastasis. Additionally, ADAM10 was overexpressed in 3 types of ESCC cell lines in vitro, as compared to that in normal esophageal epithelial cells (NEECs); and moreover, ESCC cells with high ADAM10 expression obtained enhanced invasion and migration ability. Subsequently, ADAM10 silencing by small interfering (si) RNA in ESCC cell line, EC-1, reduced cell invasion, migration and proliferation in vitro. Finally, ADAM10 negatively regulated E-cadherin in ESCC in vivo and in vitro. In conclusion, active ADAM10 promotes the carcinogenesis, invasion, metastasis and proliferation of ESCC and controls invasion and metastasis at least in part through the shedding of E-cadherin activity, which makes it a potential biomarker and a useful therapeutic target for ESCC.