New clinical and epidemiologic studies provide information about the possible causes of human leukemia. Evidence for a viral etiology continues to appear, and the relationship between myelodysplastic syndrome and the leukemias is now linked through molecular genetic studies. Molecular mechanisms of leukemogenesis are being understood through evaluation of preleukemic conditions and predisposing medical illnesses. Epipodophyllotoxins and, to a lesser extent, cisplatin are being linked causally to secondary leukemia. Potential environmental causes of leukemia are being intensively investigated with both positive and negative results. The literature on the epidemiology of leukemia is growing rapidly, and important leads toward a more complete understanding of its etiology are emerging.