Proteinases are involved in tumour invasion and metastasis. Several matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been shown to be increased in various human carcinomas. We assessed the levels of MMP-2 (gelatinase A) and MMP-9 (gelatinase B) in 50 gastric carcinomas and corresponding mucosa using quantitative gelatin zymography. Both MMP levels were significantly enhanced in gastric carcinomas compared with adjacent mucosal tissue, showed a relatively poor intercorrelation and no relation was found with histopathological carcinoma classifications according to Laurén, WHO and tumour-node-metastasis (TNM). Cox's multivariate proportional hazards analyses revealed that high carcinomatous MMP values are of prognostic significance for a poor overall survival of the patients, independent of the major clinicopathological parameters.