Recently published results of epidemiologic case-control studies in China and Italy on gastric carcinoma in relation to diet suggest that consuming garlic may reduce the risk of gastric cancer. Chemical constituents of garlic have been tested for their inhibiting effect on carcinogenesis, using in vitro and in vivo models. In most experiments inhibition of tumour growth was established using fresh garlic extract, garlic compounds or synthetically prepared analogs. In this review the strengths and weaknesses of the experiments are discussed and the outcomes are evaluated to assess the possible significance of garlic or garlic compounds for the prevention of cancer in humans. It is concluded that evidence from laboratory experiments and epidemiologic studies is presently not conclusive as to the preventive activity of garlic. However, the available evidence warrants further research into the possible role of garlic in the prevention of cancer in humans.