CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVE Chordoma is a rare tumor with a high risk of locoregional recurrences. The aim of this study was analyze the long-term results from treating this pathological condition. DESIGN AND SETTING Cohort study in a single hospital in São Paulo, Brazil. METHODS This was a retrospective cohort study on 42 patients with chordoma who were treated at Hospital A. C. Camargo between 1980 and 2006. The hospital records were reviewed and a descriptive analysis was performed on the clinical-pathological variables. Survival curves were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and these were compared using the log-rank test. RESULTS Nineteen patients were men and 23 were women. Twenty-five tumors (59.5%) were located in the sacrum, eleven (26.2%) in the skull base and six (14.3%) in the mobile spine. Surgery was performed on 28 patients (66.7%). The resection was considered to have negative margins in 14 cases and positive margins in 14 cases. The five-year overall survival (OS) was 45.4%. For surgical patients, the five-year OS was 64.3% (82.2% for negative margins and 51.9% for positive margins). In the inoperable group, OS was 37.7% at 24 months and 0% at five years. CONCLUSION Complete resection is related to local control and definitively has a positive impact on long-term survival.