Gastric cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide, with an estimated 930 000 new cases diagnosed each year. It is thought to be more prevalent in men than in women. In South Africa the latest cancer statistics show that 1 004 new cases were diagnosed and recorded in 2001. Gastric cancer is not only common but is second to lung cancer as a leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with an estimated 700 000 deaths attributed to gastric cancer. Five-year survival statistics in gastric cancer are poor (less than 5%). It is more prevalent in Asian countries, such as Japan, than in Europe and America. One of the most important features of gastric cancer is a steady decline in incidence and mortality in the developed world over the last 50 years. It is, however, thought that the incidence of gastric cancer is increasing in the developing world, although cancer records are not readily available for most developing countries. In South Africa the new cancer statistics made available by the National Cancer Registry in 2009 show that new cases of gastric cancer dropped from 1 217 in 1999 to 1 004 in 2001.