We have used Townsend scores from postcode data to compare levels of material deprivation and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-positivity for 223 patients diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease (HD) in the period 1981-1997. The presence of EBV in HD tumours was determined using in situ hybridization to target the abundantly expressed EBV early RNAs. EBV was detected in the malignant Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg cells in 47/223 HD cases (21%). There was found to be a tendency for higher Townsend scores (indicative of higher levels of material deprivation) in EBV-positive HD patients, but this association was not statistically significant. When various subgroups of patients from the study were examined separately the indication of higher Townsend scores in EBV-positive patients was found to be more marked for patients with mixed cellularity disease (P = 0.09) and for females (P = 0.03). The results of this study suggest that differences in the level of material deprivation are important in determining the likelihood of EBV-positive HD in the UK, particularly for certain subgroups of patients. It is not known what specific socioeconomic factors are responsible for these differences, although alterations in the timing or rate of primary EBV infection, or decline in the level of EBV-specific immunity, may be important.