Tumour growth is dependent on angiogenesis. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a secreted endothelial cell-specific cytokine. VEGF is angiogenic in vivo and it also acts as a vascular permeability factor. VEGF is overexpressed in many skin disorders characterized by angiogenesis and increased vascular permeability. We investigated VEGF expression in 22 primary cutaneous melanomas, 33 melanoma metastases and six naevocellular naevi using immunohistochemistry. VEGF accumulated on the vascular endothelia in the normal dermis, suggesting that a constitutive low level of VEGF expression may regulate skin vessel function under normal physiological conditions. No VEGF was detected in the cells of naevocellular naevi or normal dermis. In contrast, 32% of the primary and 91% of the metastatic melanomas contained melanoma cells staining for VEGF. Expression of VEGF was more frequent in metastases than in primary melanomas (P <0.0001). Tumour-infiltrating inflammatory cells expressed VEGF in all melanomas. A high number of VEGF-expressing inflammatory cells was associated with high VEGF expression in melanoma cells (P = 0.003). Our results suggest that VEGF is up-regulated during the course of melanoma progression and dissemination and that tumour-infiltrating cells expressing VEGF may contribute to the progression of melanoma.