We investigated stomach cancer risk by anatomic sub-site in relation to parity, as a marker for higher exposure to sex hormones, in a case–control study, nested within a cohort of 2 406 439 Swedish women born in 1925 or later and followed from 1970 or age 30 until emigration, death, any cancer diagnosis, or through 2004, whichever occurred first. We identified 286 cardia and 2498 non-cardia stomach cancer cases with five matched controls for each case. Cross-linkage with the Multi-Generation Register provided information about reproductive history. Using conditional logistic regression models for estimating odds ratios (ORs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs), adjusted for education level and occupation, we found no association between any aspect of parity and non-cardia stomach cancer (OR=1.01, 95% CI 0.89–1.15, comparing parous with nulliparous women). However, a 30% risk reduction for postmenopausal cardia cancer (OR=0.7, 95% CI 0.4–1.0) was noted among parous relative to nulliparous women and the risk for premenopausal cardia cancer fell with increasing number of children (P for trend=0.04). Our results indicate that exposure to female sex hormones does not protect against non-cardia stomach cancer and does not explain male predominance. The observed moderate inverse relationship between parity and cardia cancer may be mediated by non-hormonal factors and warrants further study.