The rise of childhood type 1 diabetes in the 20th century

Edwin A M Gale


The incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes increased worldwide in the closing decades of the 20th century, but the origins of this increase are poorly documented. A search through the early literature revealed a number of useful but neglected sources, particularly in Scandinavia. While these do not meet the exacting standards of more recent surveys, tentative conclusions can be drawn concerning long-term changes in the demography of the disease. Childhood type 1 diabetes was rare but well recognized before the introduction of insulin. Low incidence and prevalence rates were recorded in several countries over the period 1920-1950, and one carefully performed study showed no change in childhood incidence over the period 1925-1955. An almost simultaneous upturn was documented in several countries around the mid-century. The overall pattern since then is one of linear increase, with evidence of a plateau in some high-incidence populations and of a catch-up phenomenon in some low-incidence areas. Steep rises in the age-group under 5 years have been recorded recently. The disease process underlying type 1 diabetes has changed over time and continues to evolve. Understanding why and how this produced the pandemic of childhood diabetes...Continue Reading


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