Various specific chromosome rearrangements, including t(8;21), t(15;17), and inv(16), are found in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and in childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), t(12;21) and t(1;19) are common. We sequenced the translocation breakpoints of 56 patients with childhood ALL or AML harboring t(12;21), t(8;21), t(15;17), inv(16), and t(1;19), and demonstrated, with the notable exception of t(1;19), that these rearrangements are commonly detected in the neonatal blood spots (Guthrie cards) of the cases. These findings show that most childhood leukemias begin before birth and that maternal and perinatal exposures such as chemical and infectious agents are likely to be critical. Indeed, we have reported that exposure to indoor pesticides during pregnancy and the first year of life raises leukemia risk, but that later exposures do not. We have also examined aberrant gene methylation in different cytogenetic subgroups and have found striking differences between them, suggesting that epigenetic events are also important in the development of some forms of childhood leukemia. Further, at least two studies now show that the inactivating NAD(P)H:quinone acceptor oxidoreductase (NQO1) C609T polymorphism is positively associated with leukemias arising in the first 1-2 years of life and polymorphisms in the 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene have been associated with adult and childhood ALL. Thus, low folate intake and compounds that are detoxified by NQO1 may be important in elevating leukemia risk in children. Finally, we are exploring the use of proteomics to subclassify leukemia, because cytogenetic analysis is costly and time-consuming. Several proteins have been identified that may serve as useful biomarkers for rapidly identifying different forms of childhood leukemia.