Abstract Background It is believed that the development of gastric cancer (GC) before the age of 50 has a hereditary basis. Blood group A and history of gastric cancer in first-degree relatives have been shown to be risk factors for GC. Methods In this case-control study, we enrolled patients with GC who were diagnosed before the age of 50. Patients who were diagnosed as having GC were selected. A total of 534 cases were found; of these, 44 diagnosed before the age of 50 were included in the case group. For the control group, 22 males and 22 females were randomly selected from the remaining subjects, who had diagnoses of GC after the age of 50. All the surviving patients and family members of the dead patients were interviewed about the history of cancer in the family and the age at which other family members developed cancer. The blood group of each subject was also obtained. Results forty-four cases under 50 years old (mean age: 36.2 years) and forty-four controls (mean age: 67.1 years) were enrolled in the study. At the time of the study, 59.1% of the study group and 50% of the control group were alive (P value = NS). In the study group, 68.1%, 13.6%, 13.6% and 4.5% had blood groups O, A, B and AB, respectively. In the control group the corresponding figures were 27.7%, 63.6%, 6.8% and 4.5%. First or second-degree relatives with cancer, including gastric (the most frequent), breast, lung, gynecological and hematological malignancies, were noted in 54.5% of the cases and 11.4% of the controls (p Conclusions It seems that the development of GC before the age of 50 is likely to be accompanied by familial susceptibility. Interestingly, our study showed a significant correlation between blood group O and the development of gastric cancer under the age of 50.