A UK population-based case-control study of Hodgkin's disease (HD) in young adults (16-24 years) included 118 cases and 237 controls matched on year of birth, gender and county of residence. The majority (103) of the cases were classified by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) status (EBV present in Reed-Stenberg cells), with 19 being EBV-positive. Analyses using conditional logistic regression are presented of subject reports of prior infectious disease (infectious mononucleosis (IM), chicken pox, measles, mumps, pertussis and rubella). In these analyses HD cases are compared with matched controls, EBV-positive cases and EBV-negative cases are compared separately with their controls and formal tests of differences of association by EBV status are applied. A prior history of IM was positively associated with HD (odds ratio (OR) = 2.43, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.10-5.33) and with EBV-positive HD (OR = 9.16, 95% CI = 1.07-78.31) and the difference between EBV-positive and EBV-negative HD was statistically significant (P = 0.013). The remaining infectious illnesses (combined) were negatively associated with HD, EBV-positive HD and EBV-negative HD (in the total series, for > or =2 episodes compared with < or =1, OR = 0.45, 95% CI = 0.25-0.83). These results support previous evidence that early exposure to infection protects against HD and that IM increases subsequent risk; the comparisons of EBV-positive and EBV-negative HD are new and generate hypotheses for further study.