STUDY OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether the occupational exposure to external ionising radiation of men employed at the Sellafield nuclear installation, West Cumbria, affects the sex of the children they subsequently father. DESIGN: A retrospective cohort study using logistic regression to analyse the sex ratio, in particular in relation to paternal preconceptional irradiation. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: The 260,060 singleton births between 1950 and 1989 to mothers resident in Cumbria, north west England. RESULTS: The sex ratio among children of men employed at any time at Sellafield was 1.094 (95% CI: 1.060, 1.128), significantly higher than that among other Cumbrian children, 1.055 (95% CI: 1.046, 1.063). There was an increased sex ratio of 1.396 (95% CI: 1.127, 1.729) in the 345 children whose fathers were estimated from annual dose summaries to have received more than 10 mSv of external radiation in the 90 days preceding conception, but no significant linear trend between sex ratio and 90 day paternal preconceptional dose was found. There was no significant association between sex ratio and the external dose accumulated before the 90 day period preceding conception. CONCLUSIONS: Men employed at Sellafield fathered a greater proportion of boys than would be expected for a Cumbrian population, which may be partly explained by their younger age distribution. A greater effect was observed in the fathers with recorded doses exceeding 10 mSv in the 90 days before conception. While this may reflect a true statistical association, it is also possible that it may be a chance finding due to imprecision in the dose estimates and consequent misclassification.