The objective was to study prospectively the relation between quantity and type of alcohol and risk of gastric cancer. In a pooled database from three population studies conducted in 1964-1992, a total of 15,236 men and 13,227 women were followed for a total of 389,051 person-years. During follow-up 122 incident cases of gastric cancer were identified. Total alcohol intake itself was not associated with gastric cancer, but type of alcohol seemed to influence risk. Compared with non-wine drinkers, participants who drank 1-6 glasses of wine had a relative risk ratio of 0.76 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.50-1.16), whereas those who drank >13 glasses of wine per week had a relative risk ratio of 0.16 (95% CI 0.02-1.18). Linear trend test showed a significant association with a relative risk ratio of 0.60 (95% CI 0.39-0.93) per glass of wine drunk per day. These relations persisted after adjustment for age, gender, educational level, body mass index, smoking habits, inhalation and physical activity. There was no association between beer or spirits drinking and gastric cancer. In conclusion, the present study suggests that a daily intake of wine may prevent development of gastric cancer.