The age-sex distributions and temporal trends in incidence of leukaemia and lymphoma from the Manchester Children's Tumour Registry (MCTR), 1954-1998, are reported. This 45-year study includes 1795 children, all of whom had a histologically and/or cytologically verified leukaemia or lymphoma. At the time of their diagnoses all the children were under 15 years of age and were resident in a geographically defined area of northwest England covered by the MCTR. Log-linear modelling identified significant linear increases in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) (average annual increase 0.7%; P= 0.005) and in Hodgkin's disease (HD) (1.2%, P=0.04), but not in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), nor in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). The increase in ALL was most pronounced amongst males, aged 1-4 years, and is likely to be due to precursor B-cell leukaemias. The increases in ALL and HD are discussed in relation to current hypotheses suggesting a role for infection. Additionally, a non-linear cohort effect was identified for NHL (P= 0.008), which may indicate the involvement of environmental factors other than infection.