It has been shown that human thymidine phosphorylase (TP) is identical to platelet-derived endothelial cell growth factor and has angiogenic activity. In the present study, the expression of TP was examined in 139 mammary carcinomas and 35 benign mammary disorders using biochemical and immunohistochemical methods. Moreover, in order to evaluate the significance of TP expression in mammary carcinomas, the relationship between vascular density and various clinicopathological factors, including age and menopausal status of patients with a mammary carcinoma, were compared with the size, nodal status, expression of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PgR), c-erbB-2, p53 and TP of a mammary carcinoma. Thymidine phosphorylase expression increased in both the nuclei and cytoplasm of mammary carcinoma cells in comparison to mammary benign disorder cells. The number of microvessels in mammary carcinomas was generally correlated to the number of tumor cells with TP expression in cytoplasm. The number of cells with TP expression in cytoplasm was significantly large in tumors that measured 3-4 cm in diameter, compared with tumors measuring 1-2 and 5-6 cm in diameter. In mammary tumors of 1-4 cm diameter, TP expression and vessel density were significantly high in tumors negative for ER or positive for c-erbB2 and in tumors positive for TP or c-erbB2, respectively; whereas tumors of 5-6 cm in diameter were not modified by any clinicopathological factors. The results indicated that TP plays an important angiogenetic role in mammary carcinomas, especially tumors with a certain progression.