This nested case-control study based on 1.7 million live births in Sweden explores the associations between maternal and perinatal factors and the occurrence of childhood non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). The National Swedish Cancer Registry ascertained 168 cases in successive birth cohorts from 1973 through 1989 recorded in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry. From the nationwide Birth Registry, 5 controls without NHL and alive at the date the case was diagnosed were randomly selected from the pool of children, with each case matched by gender, birth year and birth month. Standardized information on selected maternal and perinatal factors up to one month after delivery were recorded in the Medical Birth Registry. Mothers of children with NHL were more likely than mothers of controls to have undergone Cesarean section [Odds ratio (OR) 1.6] and to have been exposed to paracervical anesthesia during delivery (OR 1.8). Children with NHL were more likely than controls to have endocrine-metabolic disorders (OR 3.3). This study is one of the largest focusing on the etiology of childhood NHL. Most of the maternal and perinatal characteristics studied did not markedly affect risk for childhood NHL, which may be due to maternal and perinatal factors not included in these data or to exposures later in life.