We reviewed six cases of rhabdomyosarcoma as a rare second primary malignancy in children with bilateral retinoblastoma after irradiation treatment. The patients comprised four females and two males (age range 1 year 4 months-7 years 11 months). Second tumors arose in the temporal muscle inside or close to the previously irradiated fields. All the children were alive and well 24-72 months after diagnosis. Microscopic examination showed proliferation of closely packed, small round cells with scanty cytoplasm, coarse nuclear chromatin, and increased mitotic activity without a myxoid background nor obvious alveolar architecture. The most characteristic feature was the presence of rosette-like structures in four tumors. Immunoreactivity for many skeletal muscle markers was evident, including desmin (six of six), muscle-specific actin (HHF35) (six of six), sarcomeric actin (six of six), myogenin (six of six), vimentin (six of six), and myoglobin (three of six). On reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction examination, three second tumors lacked specific chimeric transcripts for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma. Unexpectedly, variable reactivity for neurofilament (150 kd) was identified in six of six second tumors as well as 15 of 20 sporadic primary rhabdomyosarcomas (75%) examined as controls, the result being confirmed by Western blot analysis. In addition, staining for retinoblastoma-susceptibility gene protein was negative in all second tumors, in contrast to positivity in 14 of 17 sporadic primary tumors (82%). This finding suggests that retinoblastoma-susceptibility gene abnormalities could be associated with the development of second primary rhabdomyosarcoma. We consider that knowledge of the occurrence of rhabdomyosarcoma and appropriate immunohistochemical study are helpful for avoiding a misdiagnosis of recurrent retinoblastoma or Ewing's sarcoma when encountering patients with a history of bilateral retinoblastoma who developed second small round cell neoplasms.