The clinical features, age at onset and survival of 152 patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease were studied. Mean age at onset was 26.3 years and 97 per cent of patients had presented by aged 60 years. Retinal angioma was the first manifestation in 65 patients (43 per cent), followed by cerebellar haemangioblastoma (n = 60, 39 per cent) and renal cell carcinoma (n = 15, 10 per cent). Overall, 89 patients (59 per cent) developed a cerebellar haemangioblastoma, 89 (59 per cent) a retinal angioma, 43 (28 per cent) renal cell carcinoma, 20 (13 per cent) spinal haemangioblastoma and 11 (7 per cent) a phaeochromocytoma. Renal, pancreatic and epididymal cysts were frequent findings but their exact incidence was not accurately assessed. Mean age at diagnosis of renal cell carcinoma (44.0 +/- 10.9 years) was significantly older than that for cerebellar haemangioblastoma (29.0 +/- 10.0 years) and retinal angioma (25.4 +/- 12.7 years). The probability of a patient with von Hippel-Lindan disease developing a cerebellar haemangioblastoma, retinal angioma or renal cell carcinoma by age 60 years was 0.84, 0.7 and 0.69, respectively. A comprehensive screening protocol for affected patients and at-risk relatives is presented, based on detailed analysis of age at onset data for each of the major complications. Median actuarial survival was 49 years, with renal cell carcinoma the leading cause of death.