Solid tumours require neovascularisation for growth and metastasis. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been shown to be an important regulator of tumour angiogenesis. To examine the relevance of VEGF in the neoplastic transformation of human colon, we analysed protein expression in a total 30 polyps and 145 colorectal carcinomas by immunohistochemistry. All adenoma specimens, regardless of histological differentiation, and normal colonic mucosa did not express VEGF. Amongst 90 patients with non-metastatic colorectal cancer, VEGF expression was observed in 43 (48%) cases, whilst 29 of the 55 patients (53%) with metastases expressed the angiogenic factor. Both the proportion and intensity of VEGF expression were positively associated with the progression of colon carcinogenesis. Tumours with the highest VEGF expression tended to correlate with patients' survival, although VEGF expression did not emerge as an independent risk factor in a multivariate analysis. After exclusion of the patients with distant metastases, both univariate and multivariate analysis did not indicate any prognostic value for the tissues with the highest VEGF expression. Our results suggest that VEGF may play a role in the progression of colon cancer, although evaluation of this angiogenic phenotype did not provide additional prognostic information compared with that obtained from Dukes' staging of the tumours.