Kaempferol, which is one of the general flavonoids, has recently been reported to suppress proliferation, induce cell cycle arrest and promote apoptosis in various human cancer cell lines. In the present study, the effect and mechanism of kaempferol on gastric cancer (GC) was examined. The results showed that kaempferol significantly inhibited the proliferation of MKN28 and SGC7901 cell lines. However, no significant inhibition in the GSE-1 normal gastric epithelial cell line in our experimental dose was detected. Additionally, significant apoptosis and G2/M phase cell cycle arrest were identified following the treatment of kaempferol. More importantly, we observed that kaempferol inhibited the growth of the tumor xenografts although no marked effects on liver, spleen or body weight were induced. The expression levels of G2/M cell cycle‑regulating factors, cyclin B1, Cdk1 and Cdc25C, were significantly reduced. In addition, kaempferol treatment markedly decreased the level of Bcl-2 concomitant with an increase in Bax expression, resulting in the upregulation of cleaved caspase-3 and -9, which promoted PARP cleavage. Kaempferol-treated cells also led to a decrease in p-Akt, p-ERK and COX-2 expression levels. The present study therefore provided evidence that kaempferol may be a therapeutic agent for GC.