The sentinel node (SN) is regarded as the first drainage lymph node, and tumor cells are considered likely to directly affect the SN. However, few reports have identified differences between SNs and non-SNs in cancer patients. Subjects in this study included 27 patients with gastric cancer who underwent curative operation and intraoperative detection of SNs by radioisotope methods. The mean number of SNs was 3.2 (range 1 to 5). Degree of infiltration of natural killer cells, dendritic cells, MIB-1 labeling index, and CD3-zeta expression of lymphocytes in SNs and non-SNs were examined by means of immunohistochemical methods. Degree of infiltration was compared according to depth of invasion and between SNs and non-SNs. Patients with early-stage cancer displayed a greater degree of infiltration of MIB-1 labeling index and CD3-zeta expression than patients with pT2 or pT3 lesions (P<0.05). The MIB-1 labeling index in SNs was significantly lower than that in non-SNs (P<0.05). However, no significant difference was observed in infiltration of natural killer cells, dendritic cells, or CD3-zeta. Morphologic changes of dendritic cells in SNs were not definite. Our results suggest that SNs in gastric cancer might not be suppressed, unlike in breast cancer and melanoma. SN paralysis may depend on tumor- and organ-specific characteristics or exogenous stimulation from the gastric mucosa. Studies in progress will help to identify immunologic paralysis of the SN in various types of cancer. Attention must therefore be paid to organ specificity.