Studies investigating the association between interleukin-10 (IL-10) -1082 promoter polymorphism and gastric cancer risk report conflicting results. The objective of this study was to quantitatively summarise the evidence for such a relationship. Two investigators independently searched the Medline and Embase databases. This meta-analysis included 13 case-control studies, which included 2227 gastric cancer cases and 3538 controls. The combined results based on all studies showed that there was no significant difference in genotype distribution [AA odds ratio (OR)=0.92, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.73, 1.14; AG (OR=1.09, 95% CI=0.87, 1.36); GG (OR=1.03, 95% CI=0.85, 1.25)] 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 AA (OR=0.71, 95% CI=0.52, 0.97) and higher frequency AG (OR=1.53, 95% CI=1.15, 2.03) than noncancer patients among Asians. When stratifying by the location of gastric cancer, we found that patients with cardia gastric cancer had a significantly lower frequency of AA (OR=0.53, 95% CI=0.34, 0.83) and higher frequency AG (OR=1.50, 95% CI=1.06, 2.11) than those with noncardia gastric cancer among Caucasians. When stratifying by the Lauren's classification of gastric cancer, we observed no statistically significant differences in genotype distribution. This meta-analysis suggests that the IL-10 -1082 promoter polymorphism may be associated with gastric cancer among Asians, and that differences in genotype distribution may be associated with the location of gastric cancer.