Investigators worldwide have for over 40 years conducted case-control studies aimed at determining the causes of childhood cancer. The central challenge to conducting such research is the rarity of childhood cancer, thus many studies aggregate cases through clinical trials organizations such as COG. Rarity also precludes the use of prospective study designs, which are less prone to recall and selection biases. Despite these challenges a substantial literature on childhood cancer etiology has emerged but few strong environmental risk factors have been identified. Genetic studies are thus now coming to the fore with some success. The ultimate aim of epidemiologic studies is to reduce the population burden of childhood cancer by suggesting preventive measures or possibly by enabling early detection.