Leukemia mortality has been studied in 14,767 adult ankylosing spondylitis patients diagnosed between 1935 and 1957 in the United Kingdom, of whom 13,914 patients received X-ray treatment. By 1 January 1992, there were 60 leukemia deaths among the irradiated patients, almost treble that expected from national rates. Leukemia mortality was not increased among unirradiated patients. Among those irradiated, the ratio of observed to expected deaths for leukemia other than chronic lymphocytic leukemia was greatest in the period 1-5 years after the first treatment (ratio = 11.01, 95% confidence interval 5.26-20.98) and decreased to 1.87 (95% confidence interval 0.94-3.36) in the 25+ year period. There was no significant variation in this ratio with sex or age at first treatment. The ratio for chronic lymphocytic leukemia was slightly but not significantly raised (ratio = 1.44, 95% confidence interval 0.62-2.79). Most irradiated patients received all their exposure within a year. Based on a 1 in 15 random sample, the mean total marrow dose was 4.38 Gy. Doses were nonuniform, with heaviest doses to the lower spine. The risk for nonchronic lymphocytic leukemia was adequately described by a linear-exponential model that allowed for cell sterilization in heavily exposed parts of the marrow and time since exposure. Ten years after first exposure, the linear component of excess relative risk was 12.37 per Gy (95% confidence interval 2.25-52.07), and it was estimated that cell sterilization reduced the excess relative risk by 47% at 1 Gy (95% confidence interval 17%-79%). The average predicted relative risk in the period 1-25 years after exposure to a uniform dose of 1 Gy was 7.00.