Between 1954 and 1984, 282 children with astrocytoma were included in the Manchester Children's Tumour Registry (MCTR), giving an overall incidence of 9.3 per million person-years. There were 110 children with adult astrocytoma and 172 children with juvenile astrocytoma. The five-year survival for adult astrocytoma was 15% and 75% for juvenile astrocytoma. There were no significant improvements in survival with time. There were 21 children with neurofibromatosis (NF) and 4 children had tuberous sclerosis. Some children had other recognized syndromes and others had major or minor abnormalities. Nine children had second tumors, mainly associated with NF, and seven siblings had malignant tumors. A number of mothers of these children were found to have breast cancer. Some of these families may represent examples of the Li-Fraumeni cancer family syndrome. We conclude that astrocytomas is an important problem in childhood and that a proportion of cases may have a genetic origin.