Gastric carcinoma is a major cause of cancer death worldwide and, like most human cancers, probably develops after environmental insults acting on normal individuals and/or individuals with increased genetic susceptibility. Mucins are attractive molecules to study the relationship between genetics and environment because they play an important role in the protection of gastric mucosa against environmental insults and exhibit a highly polymorphic genetic variation. We performed a case-control study using Southern blot analysis to evaluate the MUC1 gene polymorphism in a series of blood donors (n = 324) and in patients with gastric carcinoma (n = 159). We found that the distribution of MUC1 alleles is significantly different in the two populations and that small MUC1 alleles and small MUC1 genotypes are significantly more frequent in patients with gastric carcinoma than in controls. Individuals with small MUC1 genotypes are at increased risk for gastric carcinoma development.