OBJECTIVES: The goal of this study was to determine the correlation of clinicopathological factors and the up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in oral squamous cell carcinoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Immunohistochemical staining of VEGF and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of VEGF mRNA were performed in 20 specimens from 20 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma and another 20 specimens from 20 patients with carcinoma in situ as a controlled group. RESULTS: The results were as follows: 1) In immunohistochemical study of poorly differentiated and invasive oral squamous cell carcinoma, high-level staining of VEGF was observed. Significant correlation was observed between immunohistochemical VEGF expression and histologic differentiation, tumor size of specimens (Pearson correlation analysis, significance r>0.6, P<0.05). 2) In VEGF quantitative RT-PCR analysis, progressive cancer showed more VEGF expression than carcinoma in situ. Paired-samples analysis determined the difference of VEGF mRNA expression level between cancer tissue and carcinoma in situ tissue, between T1 and T2-4 (Student's t-test, P<0.05). CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that up-regulation of VEGF may play a role in the angiogenesis and progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma.