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Diabetes is Now Diagnosed in 1 in 523 Young People

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006

This places diabetes among the more common chronic illnesses of youth, the researchers report, striking 1.82 children per 1,000, compared with 1.24 per 1,000 with cancer and 120 per 1,000 with asthma.

About one in every 523 young people have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the disease in Americans under 20.

The national study, provides a baseline for future studies of diabetes prevention and control, says study co-author Jean Lawrence, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena. Previous estimates have been drawn from smaller studies that focused mainly on white children and type 1 diabetes, she says.

Until now, estimates of type 2 in children have been based on anecdotal reports from doctors' offices and diabetes clinics. "We didn't have uniform national information on rates of diabetes and children and youth," Lawrence says. This study "describes the scope of the problem," she says.

The researchers found that diabetes is more common in non-Hispanic whites than in other ethnic groups, and that type 1 diabetes is the most common form in young people of all racial and ethnic groups, except for American Indians, in whom more than three-quarters of cases are type 2.

Though the prevalence is increasing, the numbers are small. Of the 6,379 identified with diabetes at six sites in the study, type 2 was found in 11 children under 10 and 758 in the 10-19 age group.

The researchers note that the study only counted diagnosed cases, and because type 2 can remain undiagnosed for a period of time, they may be underestimating its prevalence in youth.

Type 2 diabetes was unheard of in children 20 years ago, Deeb says. Now, "I frequently see a 55-year-old grandmother who developed diabetes last year, a 35-year-old mother who developed diabetes last year and a 14-year-old who developed diabetes today."

That does not bode well for the future, because diabetes over time can lead to heart and kidney problems, blindness and nerve damage that can result in amputation. If it starts in young people, he says, the complications may occur early.

"All my colleagues are worried about 25- and 30-year-olds who are at risk for having heart attacks," Deeb says. "The most important thing is that we recognize the enormity of what's happening and document the extent of it, so we can identify it and intervene."

The study, which was paid for by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, found that the average age of diagnosis was 8.4 years, and 96% of children under 10 with diabetes had type 1. Girls had a higher prevalence, at 1.88 per 1,000, than boys, at 1.77 per thousand.

Source: Diabetes In Control: Pediatrics Oct. 2006

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