Abstract Previous studies reported significant HLA-DR associations with various leukemias one of which is with HLA-DRB4 (DR53) family in male patients with childhood ALL. We have HLA-DR-typed 212 high-risk or relapsed patients with childhood ( n=114) and adult ( n=98) ALL and a total of 250 healthy controls (118 children, 132 adult) by PCR-SSP analysis. The members of the HLA-DRB3 (DR52) family were underrepresented in patients most significantly for HLA-DRB1 ∗12 ( P=0.0007) and HLA-DRB1 ∗13 ( P=0.0001). In childhood ALL, the protective effect of DRB3 was evident in homozygous form ( P=0.001). The DRB4 marker frequency was increased in males with childhood ALL (67.4%) compared to age- and sex-matched controls (42.1%, P=0.003) and female patients (35.7%, P=0.004). Besides being a general marker for increased susceptibility to childhood ALL in males, HLA-DRB4 is over-represented in high-risk patients. These results further suggest that the HLA system is one of the components of genetic susceptibility to leukemia but mainly in childhood and in boys only.