One hundred and twenty eight Brazilian children with lymphoblastic leukaemia were intensively treated with a Berlin-Frankfurt-Munich based protocol. More children had a white cell count above 50 x 10(9)/l (31%) then observed in developed countries. After a median follow up of 31 months (11-58 months), the estimated probability of relapse free survival was 41% (7%) for the whole group. After adjustment in the Cox's multivariate model, malnutrition was the most significant adverse factor affecting duration of complete remission. Age above 8 years and high peripheral white cell count were also significant adverse factors. Among the nutritional indices, the height for age and weight for age z scores were both significant, whether the cut off points of z-2 or z = -1.28 were chosen to define malnutrition. A strong statistical association between the two indices was found; the contribution of height for age z score to the prediction of relapse free survival was more significant. Children with height for age z score < -2 had a relapse risk of 8.2 (95% confidence interval 3.1 to 21.9) relative to children with z score > -2. The results of this study suggest that socioeconomic and nutritional factors should be considered in the prognostic evaluation of children with leukaemia in developing countries.