We conducted a large epidemiologic case-control study in California to examine the association between childhood cancer risk and distance from the home address at birth to the nearest high-voltage overhead transmission line as a replication of the study of Draper et al. in the United Kingdom. We present a detailed description of the study design, methods of case ascertainment, control selection, exposure assessment and data analysis plan. A total of 5788 childhood leukemia cases and 3308 childhood central nervous system cancer cases (included for comparison) and matched controls were available for analysis. Birth and diagnosis addresses of cases and birth addresses of controls were geocoded. Distance from the home to nearby overhead transmission lines was ascertained on the basis of the electric power companies' geographic information system (GIS) databases, additional Google Earth aerial evaluation and site visits to selected residences. We evaluated distances to power lines up to 2000 m and included consideration of lower voltages (60-69 kV). Distance measures based on GIS and Google Earth evaluation showed close agreement (Pearson correlation >0.99). Our three-tiered approach to exposure assessment allowed us to achieve high specificity, which is crucial for studies of rare diseases with low exposure prevalence.