The serum level of pepsinogen I (PG I) and pepsinogen II (PG II), and the PG I/PG II ratio were compared with the surface area of the fundic mucosa, as determined endoscopically by the Congo red staining method. Reduction in the area of the fundic mucosa due to gastritis was associated with stepwise reduction in the PG I levels and the PG I/PG II ratios. Reduction in the area of the fundic mucosa was also associated with decreases in the basal acid output, maximal acid output (MAO), the basal pepsin output and the stimulated pepsin output. The best sensitivity and specificity levels for the diagnosis of normal mucosa and severe gastritis were obtained with the PG I/PG II ratio and the MAO. A retrospective study of 58 patients with gastric cancer and 162 cancer-free patients showed that a PG I/PG II ratio identified 86.2% of all carcinomas and 87.5% of early carcinomas. Although this test gave a positive rate of 36% among the cancer-susceptible age group controls, its use would lower the cost of mass screening by targeting a smaller test population.