Gastric cancer is classified into intestinal and diffuse types, the latter including a highly malignant form, linitis plastica. A two-stage genome-wide association study (stage 1: 85,576 SNPs on 188 cases and 752 references; stage 2: 2,753 SNPs on 749 cases and 750 controls) in Japan identified a significant association between an intronic SNP (rs2976392) in PSCA (prostate stem cell antigen) and diffuse-type gastric cancer (allele-specific odds ratio (OR) = 1.62, 95% CI = 1.38-1.89, P = 1.11 x 10(-9)). The association was far less significant in intestinal-type gastric cancer. We found that PSCA is expressed in differentiating gastric epithelial cells, has a cell-proliferation inhibition activity in vitro and is frequently silenced in gastric cancer. Substitution of the C allele with the risk allele T at a SNP in the first exon (rs2294008, which has r(2) = 0.995, D' = 0.999 with rs2976392) reduces transcriptional activity of an upstream fragment of the gene. The same risk allele was also significantly associated with diffuse-type gastric cancer in 457 cases and 390 controls in Korea (allele-specific OR = 1.90, 95% CI = 1.56-2.33, P = 8.01 x 10(-11)). The polymorphism of the PSCA gene, which is possibly involved in regulating gastric epithelial-cell proliferation, influences susceptibility to diffuse-type gastric cancer.