Although most gastric cancers occur in elderly patients, a substantial number of cases of this common disease occur in young patients. Gastric cancer is a heterogeneous disease at the genomic level and different patterns of DNA copy number alterations are associated with different clinical behaviour. The aim of the present study was to explore differences in DNA copy number alterations in relation to age of onset of gastric cancer. DNA isolated from 46 paraffin-embedded gastric cancer tissue samples from 17 patients less than 50 years of age [median 43 (21-49) years] and 29 patients greater than or equal to 70 years of age [median 75 (70-83) years] was analysed by genome-wide microarray comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH) using an array of 5000 BAC clones. Patterns of DNA copy number aberrations were analysed by hierarchical cluster analysis of the mode-normalized and smoothed log2 ratios of tumour to normal reference fluorescence signal intensities using TMEV software, after which cluster membership was correlated with age group. In addition, supervised analysis was performed using CGH Multi-array. Hierarchical cluster analysis of the array CGH data revealed three clusters with different genomic profiles that correlated significantly with age (p = 0.006). Cluster 1 mainly contained young patients, while elderly patients were divided over clusters 2 and 3. Chromosome regions 11q23.3 and 19p13.3 contributed most to age-related differences in tumour profiles. Gastric cancers of young and old patients belong to groups with different genomic profiles, which likely reflect different pathogenic mechanisms of the disease.