Down syndrome (DS) children are at an increased risk of developing myelodysplasia and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). We retrospectively analysed the population-based data on 81 children with myeloid leukaemia of Down syndrome (ML-DS) from the UK National Registry of Childhood Tumours and experience in the Medical Research Council (MRC) AML 10 and AML 12 trials, which enrolled 46 children with ML-DS from 1988 to 2002. Eight per cent of UK children with AML had DS, but DS children comprised only 5% of children registered in MRC trials. The unique clinical characteristics of ML-DS were confirmed. Overall survival (OS) of ML-DS at 5 years increased from 47% in UK children diagnosed from 1988 to 1995 to 75% in children diagnosed from 1996 to 2002. OS for DS children registered in AML 10 and AML 12 was 74% in 5 years and improved from AML 10 to AML 12 (56% vs. 83%) There was no significant difference in OS between DS and non-DS children (OS: 74% vs. 62%, P = 0·4) in the trials, but this result masked a significant increase in early death amongst DS children, with a significant reduction in mortality later on. Relapse was significantly reduced (3% vs. 39%, P = 0·0003), leading to the improved disease-free survival (83% vs. 56%, P = 0·02). Given the increased number of earl treatment-related deaths, future treatment protocols should aim to reduce chemotherapy dosage or intensity whilst maintaining low rates of resistant and recurrent disease.