AIMS The aim of the present study was to evaluate the outcome of patients with stage lb-IIb cervical adenocarcinoma treated with radical hysterectomy, and to determine the clinicopathological characteristics of those patients. METHODS A total of 255 patients with cervical carcinoma stage Ib-IIb (57 adenocarcinoma and 198 squamous cell carcinoma) who had undergone radical hysterectomy were included in this study. Patient survival distribution was calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method. RESULTS The estimated 5-year survival rate for patients with adenocarcinoma was significantly poorer than that for patients with squamous cell carcinoma (77.9% vs 91.7%). The survival rate in stage Ib patients did not differ between two groups (95.8% vs 94.4% respectively). The incidence of lymph node involvement was significantly higher in patients with adenocarcinoma than in those with squamous cell carcinoma (31.6% vs 14.8%). Among patients receiving post-operative radiotherapy, the survival rate for adenocarcinoma (71.1%) was significantly poorer than that for squamous cell carcinoma (90.0%). When patients underwent radical hysterectomy, the survival rate for stage II patients with adenocarcinoma was significantly poorer than that for patients with squamous cell carcinoma. CONCLUSIONS The higher incidence of lymph node involvement and lower response to post-operative radiotherapy are considered to be factors of poorer prognosis in cervical adenocarcinoma.