Since neuroblastoma occurs very early in children's lives, it has been hypothesized that pre- and perinatal factors may play a role in its etiology. This study investigated the role of birth characteristics, congenital malformation and maternal reproductive history in neuroblastoma. The data used were generated by the national population-based case–control study, ESCALE, conducted in France in 2003–2004. The mothers of 191 neuroblastoma cases and 1,681 controls, frequency-matched by age and gender, were interviewed by telephone, using a standardized questionnaire, on several factors including pregnancy, medical history, lifestyle, childhood medical conditions and exposures. A positive association between congenital malformation and all neuroblastoma cases was observed [Odds ratio (OR) = 2.2, 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1.1–4.5]. Congenital malformations were highly associated to neuroblastoma in children aged less than 1 year (OR = 16.8, 95% CI: 3.1–90), while no association was observed in children aged 1 year or more (OR = 1.0, 95% CI: 0.3–2.9). A negative association with a maternal history of spontaneous abortions was also found (OR = 0.6, 95% CI: 0.4–0.9). The results strongly support the hypothesis that congenital anomalies may be associated with neuroblastoma, particularly in infant (less than 1 year of age). © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.