Since gastric cancer is an exceptional heterogeneous tumor conflicting results have been obtained about the relationship between genotype and phenotype. From the molecular point of view gastric carcinoma diffuse type forms a distinct entity which is microsatellite stable, has almost no p53 mutations and exhibits in at least half of the cases mutations in the E-cadherin gene. In contrast, all other gastric carcinomas comprise a heterogeneous group of which about one third exhibits microsatellite instability (MSI) but no p53 protein stabilization or gene mutations. These tumors are either of pure intestinal (glandular) type or show large solid (medullary) tumor cell clusters. Thereby, in sporadic gastric cancer MSI is caused by loss of hMLH1 expression due to hypermethylation of the promotor region rather than by mutation of the gene itself. Tumors that are microsatellite stable (MSS) and show p53 alterations are either intestinal (about 70%) or a mixed-type encompassing at least 5% glandular and poorly differentiated diffuse components (about 30%). Whereas pure diffuse type gastric cancer is unlikely to develop from intestinal type carcinoma, this may, however, be the case in some advanced mixed-type gastric cancers.