The records of 38 patients under 25 years of age presenting with pineal tumours between 1968 and 1993, identified from the Northern Region Children's and Young Adults' Malignant Disease Registry, were analysed retrospectively with regards to clinical presentation, diagnostic approach, treatment strategy, and outcome. The overall five year survival was 45%. Fifteen patients had a histological diagnosis: six with germinomas, three with teratomas, three with astrocytomas, and three with pinealoblastomas. One patient had a definitive diagnosis of teratoma made on the basis of raised tumour markers (alpha fetoprotein). Treatment consisted of surgery (87%) (ventriculoperitoneal or atrial shunt and/or biopsy), and/or radiotherapy (82%), and/or chemotherapy (26%). Those patients with a tissue diagnosis appeared to have a more favourable outcome, especially after 1976 when treatment was determined by tumour type (five year survival for those with a tissue diagnosis was 91% v 51% for those without, 95% confidence intervals 74 to 100% and 26 to 75%). This study suggests that tissue diagnosis allows more appropriate treatment to be delivered for children with pineal tumours resulting in improved survival. Referral to a centre with neurosurgery, radiotherapy, neuropathology, and paediatric oncology collaboration is essential.