It has been reported that decreased numbers of dendritic cells (DCs) are correlated with poor prognosis in some types of malignancy, such as gastric cancer. However, factors that determine the density of DCs have not been characterized. It was recently reported that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibits the functional maturation of DCs from CD34+ precursors. In this study, we analysed the relationship between the expression of VEGF and the density of DCs in gastric carcinoma tissues by immunohistochemical staining. The extent of infiltration by DCs was graded from marked to slight on the basis of the mean densities of DCs. The prognosis of patients with marked infiltration was significantly better than that of patients with slight infiltration among patients who had undergone curative resection. Multivariate analysis showed that infiltration by DCs was an independent prognostic indicator. Furthermore, there was an inverse correlation between the density of DCs and the expression of VEGF Our results suggest that expression of VEGF might be associated with tumour progression and poor prognosis not only because VEGF stimulates angiogenesis, but also because it allows tumours to escape from attack by the immune system in patients with gastric carcinoma.