Studies investigating the association between p53 codon 72 polymorphism and gastric cancer risk report conflicting results. The objective of this study was to quantitatively summarize the evidence for such a relationship. Two investigators independently searched the Medline and Embase databases. This meta-analysis included 12 case-control studies, which included 1,665 gastric cancer cases and 2,358 controls. The combined results based on all studies showed that there was no significant difference in genotype distribution [Arg/Arg odds ratio (OR) = 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.79, 1.16; Pro/Pro (OR = 1.21, 95% CI = 0.92, 1.58); Pro/Arg (OR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.79, 1.14)] between gastric cancer and noncancer patients. When stratifying for race, results were similar except that patients with gastric cancer had a significantly lower frequency of Arg/Arg (OR = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.72, 0.99) than noncancer patients among Asians. Stratified the various studies by the location, stage, Lauren's classification, and histological differentiation of gastric cancer, we found that (i) patients with cardia gastric cancer had a significantly higher frequency of Pro/Pro (OR = 3.20, 95% CI = 1.46,7.01) than those with noncardia gastric cancer among Asians; (ii) patients with advanced (stage III/IV) gastric cancer had a significantly higher frequency of Arg/Arg (OR = 1.48, 95% CI = 1.01, 2.16) than those with early (stage I/II) gastric cancer among Asians; (iii) patients with poor differentiation had a significantly lower frequency of Pro/Pro (OR = 0.13, 95% CI = 0.03, 0.64) than those with well differentiation among Caucasians. This meta-analysis suggests that the p53 codon 72 polymorphism may be associated with gastric cancer among Asians, and that difference in genotype distribution may be associated with the location, stage, and histological differentiation of gastric cancer.