Helicobacter pylori infection, thought to be causally related to chronic gastritis, may also be associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer. To determine whether an association with gastric cancer does exist, we retrospectively evaluated serum samples from 69 patients with histologically confirmed gastric adenocarcinoma (32 with cancer at the cardia and 37 with cancer at other sites) and from 218 patients with one of three categories of nongastric cancers, with other gastric cancers, or with benign gastric neoplasms. These samples were compared with samples from 252 cancer-free control subjects, a group comprising 76 asymptomatic volunteers and 176 persons with nonmalignant disorders. Serum samples collected from cancer patients prior to surgery and from cancer-free controls were tested for antibodies to H. pylori by using a highly sensitive and specific IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The risk of H. pylori infection in the case patients relative to the control subjects was estimated with the use of multivariate logistic regression analysis to adjust for potential confounding variables. Antibodies to H. pylori were detected in 65% of the patients with noncardia gastric cancer but in only 38% of the patients with gastric cancer located at the cardia. A significant association was found between H. pylori infection and noncardia gastric cancer (odds ratio = 2.67; 99% confidence interval = 1.01-7.06). Within the subset of patients with noncardia gastric cancer, a statistically nonsignificant tendency existed for those with the intestinal versus the diffuse histologic type of noncardia gastric cancer to have a higher risk of H. pylori infection. Our results support the hypothesis of a relationship between H. pylori infection and the development of noncardia gastric adenocarcinoma.