The aim of this study was to review the results and long-term outcome after total mesorectal excision (TME) for adenocarcinoma of the rectum in an unselected population in a community teaching hospital. Between 1996 and 2003, 210 patients with rectal cancer were identified in our prospective database, containing patient characteristics, radiotherapy plans, operation notes, histopathological reports, and follow-up details. An evaluation of prognostic factors for local recurrence, distant metastases, and overall survival was performed. The mean age at diagnosis was 69 years (range 40-91 years). A total of 145 patients were treated by anterior rectal resection; 65 patients had to undergo an abdominoperineal resection (APR). Anastomotic leakage rate was 5%. Postoperative mortality was 3%. After a median follow-up of 3.6 years, the local recurrence-free rate in patients with microscopically complete resections was 91%. The 5-year overall survival rate was 58%. An increased serum carcinoembryonic antigen, an APR, positive lymph nodes, and an incomplete resection all significantly influenced the 5-year overall survival and local recurrence rate. In a multivariate analysis, age was the most important prognostic factor for overall survival. Patients with rectal cancer can safely be treated with TME in a community teaching hospital and leads to a good overall survival and an excellent local control. In patients aged above 80, treatment-related mortality is an important competitive risk factor, which obscures the positive effect of modern rectal cancer treatment.