Background In many countries, gastric cancer is not diagnosed until an advanced stage. An Internet-based e-learning system to improve the ability of endoscopists to diagnose gastric cancer at an early stage was developed and was evaluated for its effectiveness. Methods The study was designed as a randomized controlled trial. After receiving a pre-test, participants were randomly allocated to either an e-learning or non-e-learning group. Only those in the e-learning group gained access to the e-learning system. Two months after the pre-test, both groups received a post-test. The primary endpoint was the difference between the two groups regarding the rate of improvement of their test results. Findings 515 endoscopists from 35 countries were assessed for eligibility, and 332 were enrolled in the study, with 166 allocated to each group. Of these, 151 participants in the e-learning group and 144 in the non-e-learning group were included in the analysis. The mean improvement rate (standard deviation) in the e-learning and non-e-learning groups was 1·24 (0·26) and 1·00 (0·16), respectively (P < 0·001). Interpretation This global study clearly demonstrated the efficacy of an e-learning system to expand knowledge and provide invaluable experience regarding the endoscopic detection of early gastric cancer (R000012039).