Although there is increasing evidence that immune dysregulation in children who develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is detectable from birth, debate about the role of infectious exposures in infancy continues. With the aim of quantifying children's infectious exposures, investigators have used a number of infection exposure proxies, but there is a lack of consistency in findings, with some markers indicating increased ALL risks and others decreased risks, the disparity being evident both within and between studies. Accordingly, the authors conducted an in-depth analysis of key infection exposure proxies used in the United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study, a national population-based case-control study conducted over the period 1991-1996, which combined data from medical records, parental interview, and population census. This longitudinal approach revealed the marked deterioration in immune response that emerged around 5 months prior to ALL diagnosis and confirmed that infectious diagnoses in the first year of life were significantly increased (P < 0.05) in children who developed leukemia between 2 and 14 years of age, as well as in those who had birth orders >1, were not breastfed, lived in deprived areas, or were diagnosed with eczema. By contrast, no association between infectious illness and preschool activity was detected, the lower infection levels among controls whose mothers reported attendance contributing to a significantly reduced ALL odds ratio.