To determine the relevance of gastric juice factors to gastric carcinogenesis, 56 patients with unoperated stomachs undergoing endoscopy for dyspepsia had gastric juice aspirated and analysed for pH, ascorbic acid, total bile acids, nitrite, nitrate and total nitroso compounds (NOCs). Plasma was obtained for vitamin C estimation. Antral and body biopsies were assessed for gastritis, Helicobacter pylori, atrophy and intestinal metaplasia (IM). Patients with chronic atrophic gastritis (n = 17) had lower gastric juice ascorbic acid concentrations (P less than 0.001), higher pH (P less than 0.05) and higher incidence of H. pylori infection (P less than 0.001) than normal subjects (n = 12). Patients with reflux gastritis (n = 9) had higher total bile acids (P less than 0.01). Patients with chronic gastritis and IM (n = 11) had higher gastric juice pH (P less than 0.01) and total bile acid concentrations (P less than 0.05), and lower gastric ascorbic acid concentrations (P less than 0.01) than those with chronic gastritis and no IM (n = 24). In chronic gastritis, high nitrite concentrations were associated with high pH (P less than 0.01). However, there were no significant differences in plasma vitamin C or gastric nitrite, nitrate or total NOC concentrations in relation to gastric histology. We conclude that the premalignant condition IM is associated with H. pylori infection, low gastric ascorbic acid levels and elevated total bile acids, but not to elevation in nitrite or total NOCs in fasting gastric juice.