Background: Children with Down syndrome (DS) have an increased risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Although previous studies have shown that DS-ALL differs clinically and genetically from non-DS-ALL, much remains to be elucidated as regards genetic and prognostic factors in DS-ALL. Methods: To address clinical and genetic differences between DS-ALL and non-DS-ALL and to identify prognostic factors in DS-ALL, we ascertained and reviewed all 128 pediatric DS-ALL diagnosed in the Nordic countries between 1981 and 2010. Their clinical and genetic features were compared with those of the 4,647 B-cell precursor (BCP) ALL cases diagnosed during the same time period. Results: All 128 DS-ALL were BCP ALL, comprising 2.7% of all such cases. The 5-year event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) were significantly (P = 0.026 and P = 0.003, respectively) worse for DS-ALL patients with white blood cell counts >= 50 x 10(9)/l. The age distributions varied between the DS and non-DS cases, with age peaks at 2 and 3 years, respectively; none of the DS patients had infant ALL (P = 0.029). The platelet counts were lower in the DS-ALL group (P = 0.005). Abnormal karyotypes were more common in non-DS-ALL (P < 0.0001), and there was a significant difference in the modal number distribution, with only 2% high hyperdiploid DS-ALL cases (P < 0.0001). The 5-year EFS and 5-year OS were significantly worse for DS-ALL (0.574 and 0.691, respectively) compared with non-DS-ALL (0.783 and 0.894, respectively) in the NOPHO ALL-1992/2000 protocols (P < 0.001). Conclusions: The present study adds further support for genetic and clinical differences between DS-ALL and non-DS-ALL.