Gastric cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide; however, gastric cancer incidence varies greatly between different geographic areas. As gastric cancer is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage, the disease causes considerable morbidity and mortality. To detect gastric carcinomas at an early and curable stage, screening and surveillance seem necessary. Premalignant gastric lesions are well known risk factors for the development of intestinal type gastric adenocarcinomas. In a multistep cascade, chronic Helicobacter pylori-induced gastritis progresses through premalignant stages of atrophic gastritis, intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia, to eventually gastric cancer. Therefore, this cascade may provide a basis for early detection and treatment of gastric cancer. Epidemiology of gastric cancer and premalignant gastric lesions should guide the development of screening and surveillance strategies, as distinct approaches are required in countries with low and high gastric cancer incidences.