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Research into depression in paediatric cancer is in its early stages, but nevertheless has presented interesting challenges regarding the recognition and measurement of depression in a medically ill population. In this article we discuss the complex interaction between physical and psychological variables, and the diagnostic difficulties arising from this. We review the epidemiological findings regarding prevalence, evaluating the apparently low prevalence rate in the light of methodological weaknesses. Hypotheses put forward to explain the findings are discussed. We conclude by highlighting areas for future research.