In just two decades, the rate of type 1 diabetes in urban children has skyrocketed, according to new research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, found that diabetes incidence in children under age 5 has increased by a whopping 70 percent in the city of Philadelphia.
Researchers, led by nursing professor Terri H. Lipman, said the findings indicate childhood diabetes is rising at an alarming rate of 1.5 percent each year and requires more aggressive action.
"The most rapid increase in type 1 diabetes — in children diagnosed before age 5 — requires immediate attention," said Lipman. "These young children are at the highest risk for death because of often-delayed diagnosis. The rapidly rising risk of diabetes in black children ages 0-4 years is of particular concern given the marked racial disparities that have been identified in diabetes outcomes and treatment in this population."
The findings are based on information from the Philadelphia Pediatric Diabetes Registry, which Lipman has maintained since 1985. The registry has documented 935 cases of type 1 diabetes in children over the past two decades, Lipman said, but a growing number of cases have developed since 2000.
"The incidence had been relatively stable over the first 15 years and has risen most markedly since 2000,” Lipman said. “This upward trend adds to the evidence of an increasing incidence of diabetes in the United States and worldwide."
The registry data showed the incidence of type 1 diabetes is 18 times higher than type 2 diabetes in white children, but only 1.6 times higher in black children, indicating a high incidence of type 2 diabetes in black children. The rate of type 2 diabetes was also higher in females than males, highest in black youth, and lowest in non-Hispanic white youth.
The reasons for the increases are unknown, Lipman added.
"While there are a number of hypotheses related to the causes of the increases in type 1 diabetes, no risk factors have been confirmed" said Lipman. "It is critical to continue to investigate risk factors that may be associated with the increased incidence of type 1 diabetes overall, and the marked rise in the incidence in young children."
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