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While the clinical and experimental knowledge concerning gastric lymphomas is increasing, there is a scarcity of epidemiological data.A population-based sample of patients in Franconia and Saarland in Germany was collected from a clinical trial, hospital archives and a cancer registry.Over a period of 3 years, 94 patients with primary gastric lymphoma were recorded out of a total population of 3.5 million. The standardised incidence rates in Saarland and Franconia were 0.7 and 0.8 cases per 100 000, respectively. Patients were predominantly from higher age groups (mean age 62.1 years) and the incidence in men was slightly more than in women (P <0.03). The distribution of histological subtypes in Franconia was as follows: marginal zone B-cell lymphomas (MZBL), 58%; diffuse large-cell B-cell lymphoma (DLBL), 33%; and mixed forms, 9%. Helicobacter pylori could be detected histologically in 84% of all cases, 95% of MZBL cases and 68% of DLBL cases.Incidence rates of gastric lymphoma in Germany were similar to that in other European countries, except England, where rates are lower. The subtype-specific differences of H. pylori infection rates could be due to differences in carcinogenesis or to secondary changes during malignant transformation.