Invasion to lymphatic vessels and metastasis to lymph nodes are frequent complications in invasive micropapillary carcinoma (IMPC) of human breast cancer. Vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) and its receptor, VEGFR-3 have been implicated as the important factors in the formation of lymphatic vessels and recent experimental evidence strongly suggests that lymphangiogenesis in tumor promotes lymphatic metastasis. To clarify the mechanism of its occurrence, the expression of VEGF-C, VEGFR-3 and lymphatic vessel density (LVD) was examined in 40 cases of IMPC (pure and mixed type) and in 40 cases of pseudo-IMPC. Cytoplasmic expression of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 were more frequent in tumor cells of IMPC compared to those of pseudo-IMPC. A significant positive correlation was found between the expression of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 in both IMPC and pseudo-IMPC. The expression of VEGF-C was also significantly associated with higher peritumoral LVD, lymphatic invasion and number of lymph node metastasis in IMPC. These findings suggest that VEGF-C promotes the proliferation of peritumoral lymphatic vessels and that lymphatic invasion and metastasis to lymph nodes are frequently induced in IMPC of breast.