This report describes a population-based case-control study that aimed to assess and quantify the risk of children with congenital malformations developing cancer. Three sources of data were used: the Victorian Cancer Register, the Victorian Perinatal Data Register (VPDR) and the Victorian Congenital Malformations/Birth Defects Register. Cases included all Victorian children born between 1984 and 1993 who developed cancer. Four controls per case, matched on birth date, were randomly selected from the VPDR. Record linkage between registers provided malformation data. A matched case-control analysis was undertaken. Of the 632 cancer cases, 570 (90.2%) were linked to the VPDR. The congenital malformation prevalence in children with cancer was 9.6% compared with 2.5% in the controls [odds ratio (OR) 4.5, 95% CI 3.1-6.7]. A strong association was found with chromosomal defects (OR=16.7, 95% CI 6.1-45.3), in particular Down's syndrome (OR=27.1, 95% CI 6.0-122). Most other birth defect groups were also associated with increased cancer risk. The increased risk of leukaemia in children with Down's syndrome was confirmed, and children with central nervous system (CNS) defects were found to be at increased risk of CNS tumours. The report confirms that children with congenital malformations have increased risks of various malignancies. These findings may provide clues to the underlying aetiology of childhood cancer, as congenital malformations are felt to be a marker of exposures or processes which may increase cancer risk. The usefulness of record linkage between accurate population-based registers in the epidemiological study of disease has also been reinforced.