Venous thromboembolism (VTE) often occurs after surgery and can even occur before surgery in patients with gynaecological malignancies. We investigated the incidence of VTE before treatment of endometrial cancer and associated risk factors. Plasma D-dimer (DD) levels before initial treatment were examined in 171 consecutive patients with endometrial cancer. Venous ultrasound imaging (VUI) of the lower extremities was performed in patients with DD >or=1.5 microg ml(-1), as the negative predictive value of DD for VTE is extremely high. For patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary scintigraphy was performed to ascertain the presence of pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE). Risk factors for VTE were analysed using univariate and multivariate analyses for 171 patients. Of these, 37 patients (21.6%) showed DD >or=1.5 microg ml(-1), 17 (9.9%) displayed DVT by VUI and 8 (4.7%) showed PTE on pulmonary scintigraphy. All patients with VTE were asymptomatic. Univariate analysis for various risk factors revealed older age, non-endometrioid histology and several variables of advanced disease as significantly associated with VTE before treatment. Obesity, smoking and diabetes mellitus were not risk factors. Multivariate analysis confirmed extrauterine spread and non-endometrioid histology as independently and significantly associated with risk of VTE. These data suggest that silent or subclinical VTE occurs before treatment in at least around 10% of patients with endometrial cancer. Risk factors for VTE before treatment might not be identical to those after starting treatment.