We conducted a genome-wide scan of SNPs to identify variants associated with length of survival in 1,331 individuals with esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma (ESCC), with associations validated in 2 independent sets including 1,962 individuals with this cancer. We identified rs1050631 in SLC39A6 as associated with the survival times of affected individuals, with the hazard ratio for death from ESCC in the combined sample being 1.30 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.19−1.43; P = 3.77 × 10−8). rs7242481, located in the 5′ UTR of SLC39A6, disturbs a transcriptional repressor binding site and results in upregulation of SLC39A6 expression. Immunohistochemical staining of ESCC tissues showed that higher expression of SLC39A6 protein was correlated with shorter length of survival in individuals with advanced ESCC (P = 0.013). Knockdown of SLC39A6 expression suppressed proliferation and invasion in ESCC cells. These results suggest that SLC39A6 has an important role in the prognosis of ESCC and may be a potential therapeutic target.