In a case-control study of gastric cancer (GC) in high-risk and low-risk areas in Italy, 923 GCs were reviewed by one pathologist and classified according to anatomic site. There were 68 (7.4%) cancers occurring in the gastric cardia. Compared to other GCs, cardia cancer tended to occur more often in males (sex ratio 2.8 vs 1.7) and as intestinal or unclassified histologic types. Nutritional factors for cardia tumours resembled those of other GCs, showing inverse associations with the consumption of raw vegetables, citrus and other fresh fruit, and ascorbic acid, and positive associations with the intake of traditional soups and meat, protein and cholesterol, and preference for salty foods. Cigarette smoking and wine consumption were unrelated to cardia cancer risk, and there was only a weak association with total alcohol intake. Cardia tumours showed a greater familial occurrence of GC than did other sites, with a 7-fold increase in risk for those reporting two first-degree relatives with GC. The authors discuss these findings in view of the rising incidence of adenocarcinomas of the cardia and lower oesophagus that has been reported in some western countries.