Here, we used reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and western blot to detect protease-activated receptor (PAR) 1, PAR 2 and PAR 4 expression in cancer tissues and cell lines of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and investigated the co-relationship between PAR expression and clinic-pathological data for esophageal cancer. The methylation of PAR4 gene promoter involved in esophageal carcinoma was also analyzed. By comparing the mRNA expressions of normal esophageal tissue and human esophageal epithelial cells (HEEpiC), we found that among the 28 cases of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, PAR1 (60%) and PAR2 (71%) were elevated in 17 and 20 cases, respectively, and PAR4 (68%) expression was lowered in 19 cases. Whereas, in human esophageal squamous cells (TE-1 and TE-10), PAR1 and PAR2 expression was increased but PAR4 was decreased. Combined with clinical data, the expression of PAR1 in poorly differentiated (P=0.016) and middle and lower parts of the esophagus (P=0.016) was higher; expression of PAR4 in poorly differentiated carcinoma was lower (P=0.049). Regarding TE-1 and TE-10 protein expression, we found that in randomized esophageal carcinoma, PAR1 (P=0.027) and PAR2 (P=0.039) expressions were increased, but lowered for PAR4 (P=0.0001). In HEEpiC, TE-1, TE-10, esophageal and normal esophagus tissue samples (case No. 7), the frequency of methylation at the 19 CpG loci of PAR4 was 35.4%, 95.2%, 83.8%, 62.6% and 48.2%, respectively. Our results indicate that the expression of PAR1 and PAR2 in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is increased but PAR4 is decreased. Hypermethylation of the promoter of the PAR4 gene may contribute to reduced expression of PAR4 in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.