Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is an easy-to-use, non-invasive and reproducible technique to evaluate changes in body composition and nutritional status. Phase angle, determined by BIA, has been found to be a prognostic indicator in several chronic conditions, such as HIV, liver cirrhosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, and in patients undergoing dialysis. The present study investigated the prognostic role of phase angle in advanced pancreatic cancer. We evaluated a case series of fifty-eight stage IV pancreatic cancer patients treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Zion, IL, USA) between January 2000 and July 2003. BIA was conducted on all patients using a bioelectrical impedance analyser that operated at 50kHz. The phase angle was calculated as capacitance (Xc)/resistance (R) and expressed in degrees. The Kaplan–Meier method was used to calculate survival. Cox proportional hazard models were constructed to evaluate the prognostic effect of phase angle independent of other clinical and nutritional variables. The correlations between phase angle and traditional nutritional measures were evaluated using Pearson and Spearman coefficients. Patients with phase angle <5·0° had a median survival time of 6·3 (95% CI 3·5, 9·2) months (n 29), while those with phase angle >5·0° had a median survival time of 10·2 (95% CI 9·6, 10·8) months (n 29); this difference was statistically significant (P=0·02). The present study demonstrates that phase angle is a strong prognostic indicator in advanced pancreatic cancer. Similar studies in other cancer settings with larger sample sizes are needed to further validate the prognostic significance of the phase angle.