Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is known to be produced by various solid tumours and is thought to be involved in microvascular permeability and/or angiogenesis. To examine the relationship between VEGF expression in ovarian neoplasms and clinicopathological factors or patient survival, expression of VEGF was analysed immunohistochemically in 110 epithelial ovarian tumours. In addition, VEGF levels in the tumour fluid (17 patients), ascites (12 patients) and sera (38 patients) were determined using enzyme immunoassay. Positive immunostaining for VEGF was observed in 97% (68 out of 70) of ovarian carcinomas, which was significantly higher than that of tumours of low malignant potential (LMP) (13 out of 25; 52%) and benign cystadenomas (5 out of 15; 33%) (P < 0.01). In ovarian carcinomas, strong VEGF immunostaining was also observed more frequently in tumours of clear cell type (P < 0.05) in the advanced stage of disease (P < 0.05) and with positive peritoneal cytology (P < 0.01). Patients with strong VEGF staining had poorer survival rates than those with weak or no immunostaining for VEGF (P < 0.01). These findings suggest that strong VEGF expression plays an important role in the tumour progression of ovarian carcinoma. The enzyme immunoassay revealed higher serum VEGF levels in carcinoma patients than those in patients with LMP or benign tumours (P < 0.01). Serum VEGF levels decreased after the successful removal of tumours in ovarian cancer patients and, in one patient, the serum VEGF level was re-elevated during relapse. Therefore, serum VEGF could be used as a marker for monitoring the clinical course of ovarian cancer patients.