BACKGROUND: Studies have demonstrated that some polymorphisms in different interleukin genes may increase the risk of cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between the IL-8 (rs4073) -251A/T gene polymorphism and the risk of gastric cancer (GC). PATIENTS AND METHODS: A case-control study was conducted on patients with noncardia gastric cancer. DNA was extracted from leukocytes and the IL-8 (rs4073) -251A/T polymorphism was analyzed by PCR-RFLP. Infection with Helicobacter pylori was investigated in the serum by ELISA. RESULTS: The sample consisted of 104 patients with GC and 196 controls. Cigarette smoking (P=0.007) and high fat intake (P=0.01) were more frequent in patients with GC. The proportion of patients infected with H. pylori was similar in the two groups (P=0.101). The frequency of the genotype A/T was higher in the cancer group (P=0.008). An increased risk of GC was found in subjects carrying the genotype A/T (OR=2.50, CI: 1.27-4.90), subjects with high fat intake (OR=1.92, CI: 1.17-3.15), and smokers (OR=2.00, CI: 1.203.31). CONCLUSIONS: Subjects with the heterozygous A/T genotype, high fat intake and smokers or ex-smokers presented an increased risk of GC. Individuals with A/A genotype may have protective effect for GC.