Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) is the causative agent of enzootic bovine lymphosarcoma. Much speculation continues to be directed at the role of BLV in human leukemia. To test this hypothesis rigorously, a case-control study of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was conducted between December 1983 and February 1986. Cases (less than or equal to 16 years at diagnosis) derived from patients diagnosed at the primary institutions and affiliated hospitals were matched (age, sex, and race) with regional population controls. DNA samples from bone marrow or peripheral blood from 157 cases (131 acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 26 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and peripheral blood from 136 controls were analyzed by Southern blot technique, under highly stringent conditions, using cloned BLV DNA as a probe. None of the 157 case or 136 control DNA samples hybridized with the probe. The high statistical power and specificity of this study provide the best evidence to date that genomic integration of BLV is not a factor in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia/non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.