Upregulation of acidic and basic fibroblast growth factors (FGF-1 and -2), and their cognate receptors FGFR-1 and -2, has been demonstrated in a variety of epithelial malignancies. However, the patterns of FGF/FGFR expression at specific stages of epithelial carcinogenesis have not been extensively characterized. In this report, the levels of FGF-1, FGF-2, FGF-7 mRNA and their receptors FGFR-1 and FGFR-2, were investigated during epidermal carcinogenesis in transgenic mice expressing the early region of the 'high risk' papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) under control of the human keratin-14 enhancer/promoter (K14-HPV16 transgenic mice). FGF-1 was first upregulated in dysplasias, while FGF-2 was constitutively expressed in non-transgenic, neoplastic, and malignant keratinocytes throughout carcinogenesis. Expression of FGF-7 was undetectable in non-transgenic epidermis, and remained at threshold levels at all stages of progression. In well differentiated squamous cancers, FGFR-1 was upregulated and co-localized with angiogenic capillaries in the dermis underlying dysplastic lesions and within papillary fronds of invasive cancers. In contrast, FGFR-1 was upregulated specifically within the malignant squamous cells of moderate-poorly differentiated squamous cancers. The expression of FGFR-2 was essentially constitutive in both non-transgenic and neoplastic epidermis. Collectively the data suggest that the FGF/FGFR signaling pathways may potentially contribute to several facets of multi-stage epithelial carcinogenesis, including auto- or paracrine growth stimulation, upregulation of angiogenesis, and stromal remodeling.