Vascular endothelial cell growth factors (VEGF)-A, -C and -D have potent angio and lymphangiogenic functions in experimental models, although their role in the progression of human breast cancer is unclear. The aims of the current study were to examine the relationship between the expression of the aforementioned growth factors with the angio and lymphangiogenic characteristics of breast cancer, and to assess their suitability as potential prognostic factors. Paraffin-embedded sections of 177 primary invasive breast cancer, with complete clinical follow-up information for 10 years, were stained for VEGF-A, -C, -D, podoplanin and CD34 using standard immunohistochemical approaches. The expression of the growth factors was correlated with clinicopathological criteria and patients' survival. Lymph vessel density (LVD) and microvessel density (MVD) were assessed and correlated with expression of the growth factors. Vascular endothelial cell growth factor-A, -C and -D were highly expressed in 40, 37 and 42% of specimens, respectively. High expression of VEGF-A and - C, but not of -D, was associated with a higher LVD ( P=0.013 and P=0.014, respectively), a higher MVD ( P<0.001 and P=0.002, respectively), the presence of lymph node metastasis ( P<0.001 and P<0.001, respectively), distant metastasis ( P=0.010 and P=0.008, respectively) and a shorter Overall Survival ( P=0.029 and 0.028, respectively). In conclusion, breast cancers that express high levels of VEGF-A and -C are characterised by a poor prognosis, likely through the induction of angio and lymphangiogenesis. Examination of expression of VEGF-A and -C in breast cancer may be beneficial in the identification of a subset of tumours that have a higher probability of recurrence and metastatic spread.