E-cadherin and catenins play a major role in neoplastic cell behavior as a suppressor of invasion and/or metastasis. The aim of this study was to determine E-cadherin, alpha-catenin and beta-catenin expressions in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) and to correlate the results of expression to initial clinicopathological parameters and clinical outcome. Forty-one cases (mean age 37.3 +/- 11.2 yr) with PTC were studied. Patients were followed-up with a mean period of 47.6 +/- 27.0 months. A retrospective immunohistochemical analysis of E-cadherin, alpha-catenin and beta-catenin was performed on paraffin-embedded tissue sections. Tissues from ten patients with benign goiter were used as controls. E-cadherin, alpha- and beta-catenin immunoreactivities were found in 80% (33/41), 76% (31/41) and 97% (40/41) of patients respectively. No correlation was found between E-cadherin, alpha- and beta-catenin immunoreactivities and sex, local invasion or lymphatic spread at the time of initial examination. Distant metastases and/or local recurrences developed in 6 patients during follow-up. Recurrences/metastases developed both E-cadherin, alpha- and beta-catenin positive and negative primary tumors. Disease-free survival curves according to Kaplan-Meier analysis and log-rank test did not show any significant differences between E-cadherin, alpha- and beta-catenin positive and negative patients. According to our findings, E-cadherin, alpha- and beta-catenin expressions may not add any valuable information to the follow-up in a subgroup of PTC patients with a relatively benign course. (C) 2002, Editrice Kurtis.