BACKGROUND: Infectious diseases and social contacts in early life have been proposed to modulate brain tumour risk during late childhood and adolescence. METHODS: CEFALO is an interview-based case-control study in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, including children and adolescents aged 7-19 years with primary intracranial brain tumours diagnosed between 2004 and 2008 and matched population controls. RESULTS: The study included 352 cases (participation rate: 83%) and 646 controls (71%). There was no association with various measures of social contacts: daycare attendance, number of childhours at daycare, attending baby groups, birth order or living with other children. Cases of glioma and embryonal tumours had more frequent sick days with infections in the first 6 years of life compared with controls. In 7-19 year olds with 4+ monthly sick day, the respective odds ratios were 2.93 (95% confidence interval: 1.57-5.50) and 4.21 (95% confidence interval: 1.24-14.30). INTERPRETATION: There was little support for the hypothesis that social contacts influence childhood and adolescent brain tumour risk. The association between reported sick days due to infections and risk of glioma and embryonal tumour may reflect involvement of immune functions, recall bias or inverse causality and deserve further attention.