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Studies on the association between spicy food intake and cancer risk have reported inconsistent results. We quantitatively assessed this association by conducting a meta-analysis based on evidence from case–control studies.PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library were searched for eligible publications. Combined odds ratios (ORs) with their 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated using a random- or fixed-effects model. The methodological quality of the included articles was assessed using the Newcastle–Ottawa scale (NOS). All data were analyzed using STATA 11.0 software (version 11.0; StataCorp., College Station, TX, USA). Subgroup analyses were also performed with stratification by region, sex, number of cases, cancer subtype, source of the control group, and NOS score.A total 39 studies from 28 articles fulfilled the inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis (7884 patients with cancer and 10,142 controls). Comparison of the highest versus lowest exposure category in each study revealed a significant OR of 1.76 (95% CI = 1.35–2.29) in spite of significant heterogeneity (P < 0.001). In the subgroup analyses, this positive correlation was still found for gastric cancer, different regions, different numbers of cases, different sources of the control group, and high-quality articles (NOS score of ≥ 7). However, no statistically significant association was observed for women, esophageal cancer, gallbladder cancer, or low-quality articles (NOS score of <7). No evidence of publication bias was found.Evidence from case–control studies suggested that a higher level of spicy food intake may be associated with an increased incidence of cancer despite significant heterogeneity. More studies are warranted to clarify our understanding of the association between high spicy food intake and the risk of cancer.