Surgical-site infection (SSI) is the most prevalent type of hospital infection in surgical patients and is associated with an increase in hospital stay, costs and morbidity/lethality. The knowledge of the main risk factors for this type of infection is important for the establishment of prevention measures regarding modifiable risks factors. The objective of the preset study was to assess the occurrence of SSI and study the risk factors in oncologic surgeries of the digestive system at Hospital de Câncer in Barretos, São Paulo, Brazil. Individuals undergoing oncologic surgeries of the digestive system in the period of 08/01/2007 to 08/10/2008 were prospectively followed for 30 days after surgery. Possible risk factors related to the patient and to the surgical procedure were also studied. A total of 210 surgeries were analyzed, with a global SSI incidence of 23.8%. The following variables were independently associated with SSI: time and type of surgery, radiotherapy before surgery and surgeon's years of experience. The risk factors found in this study have been described by other authors and are not amenable to intervention for SSI prevention. Further studies are recommended with the objective of investigating interventions that could reduce the risk for SSI in this type of surgery.