OBJECTIVES: To investigate the relationships between lymph node metastasis (LNM) and expression of CD31, D2-40 and vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF)-A and -C in patients with papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). METHODS: Paraffin-embedded thyroid tissues of 72 patients were evaluated, which included 25 patients with thyroid nodular hyperplasia (TNH), 24 PTC patients without LNM, and 23 PTC patients with LNM. Three pathologists, who were blinded to the patient's clinical information, assessed the immunohistochemical staining results. The amount of expression was scored as high (>25% of cells stained) or low (0-25%). RESULTS: A higher level of VEGF-A expression was observed in the PTC groups regardless of LNM when compared to the group with TNH (91.3%, 79.2%, 4.0%, respectively). VEGF-C expression in the PTC with LNM group was significantly higher than the other two groups (P<0.05). No difference in microvessel density (MVD) scores was observed using CD31 among the three groups. The lymphatic vessel density (LVD) score using D2-40 was significantly higher in patients having PTC with LNM than the other groups (P<0.05). CONCLUSION: VEGF-C and D2-40 were more highly expressed in patients having PTC with LNM than in patients having PTC without LNM or in those having TNH. Analysis of VEGF-C level and LVD using D2-40 may be helpful in the diagnosis of PTC and the evaluation of LNM potential in patients with PTC.