p53 codon 72, which produces variant proteins with an arginine (Arg) or proline (Pro), has been reported to be associated with cancers of the lung, esophagus and cervix. However, there have been no reports on the p53 codon 72 polymorphism in gastric cancer susceptibility in patients with Helicobacter pylori-associated chronic gastritis (H. pylori-CG). We, therefore, examined the polymorphism in 117 gastric cancer patients (72 intestinal type and 45 diffuse type) with H. pylori-CG and 116 H. pylori-CG patients without gastric cancer as controls. Polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis was performed to analyze the p53 codon 72 polymorphism. The crude genotypic frequencies in the gastric cancer patients were similar to those of the controls. However, when gastric cancers were classified by histologic subtype, the Pro/Pro was more frequent in the patients with diffuse type gastric cancer than in the controls (22.2% of cases vs. 12.1% of controls). The Pro/Pro genotype was associated with a 2.98-fold higher risk of diffuse-type cancer compared to the Arg/Arg genotype (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07–8.32, p = 0.038). These results suggest that the Pro/Pro genotype at p53 codon 72 contributes to susceptibility for diffuse-type gastric cancer in patients with H. pylori-CG. The p53 codon 72 polymorphism may serve as the genetic marker for the risk assessment of the diffuse-type gastric cancer development in patients with H. pylori-CG. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.