Lymphangiomas are commonly regarded as vascular malformations during embryonic development rather than as true neoplasms. VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 are known to be active in the formation of lymphangiomas. However, the significance of the disorders seems to be obscured by confusing different entities. In 114 lymphangiomas, we investigated the clinicopathological features and the expression of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3. The age of patients with lymphangioma circumscriptum or intraabdominal lymphangioma was significantly higher than in patients with cavernous lymphangioma and in patients with cystic hygroma. In cavernous lymphangioma, the age of female patients was significantly higher than in male patients. Five adult cystic hygromas were identified. VEGF-C was detected in 21 of 58 (36%) cavernous lymphangiomas, ten of 28 (36%) cystic hygromas, 0 of 12 (0%) lymphangioma circumscriptum, and four of ten (40%) intraabdominal lymphangiomas. VEGFR-3 was detected in 43 of 58 (72%) cavernous lymphangiomas, 20 of 28 (71%) cystic hygromas, six of 12 (50%) lymphangiomas circumscriptum, and seven of ten (70%) intraabdominal lymphangiomas. VEGF-C was absent from superficial lymphangiomas associated with cavernous lymphangiomas. In typical cases of cavernous lymphangioma, VEGF-C was strongly expressed, suggesting that these cases possessed proliferative activity. In cystic hygroma and intraabdominal lymphangioma, VEGF-C was limited in its distribution. Superficial lymphangiomas more likely represent from peripheral lymphatic dilatation rather than due to growth factor.
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