WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – About 15,000 children and adolescents in the United States are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and about 3,700 youth are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year, according to estimates from a major national study called SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth.
A multi-center study of childhood diabetes in racially and ethnically diverse populations, SEARCH is the largest surveillance effort of diabetes among youth under the age of 20 conducted in the United States to date. The study, which is coordinated at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, covers 10 locations across the country where about 5.5 million children live.
In a report in the June 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, study investigators identified 2,435 youth who were diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in 2002 and 2003. The estimated overall incidence of diabetes in youth is 24.3 per 100,000 per year.
“The SEARCH study provides a unique opportunity to understand the burden of diabetes in youth in the United States,” said Ronny Bell, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and prevention and principal investigator of the SEARCH study coordinating center at Wake Forest. “The results of this study show that a significant number of youth in the U.S. have diabetes, and some groups are more at risk than others.”
In children under the age of 10, most had type 1 diabetes, previously known as insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset diabetes, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Even among older youth ages 10-14, type 1 diabetes was frequent among non-Hispanic whites (32.0 per 100,000 per year), blacks (19.2 per 100,000) and Hispanic adolescents (19.2 per 100,000 per year), but was much less common among Asian Pacific Islanders (8.3 per 100, 000 per year) and American Indian youth (7.1 per 100,000 per year). In all age groups, the highest rates of type 1 diabetes were observed in non-Hispanic white boys and girls.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when white blood cells, which normally fight off infections in the body, destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Since their bodies stop making insulin, people with type 1 diabetes need insulin from another source in order to survive.
SEARCH estimates of type 1 diabetes incidence are higher than those reported by previous U.S. childhood diabetes registries.
The SEARCH study also found some variation by age and race/ethnicity in type 2 diabetes rates among youth. In type 2 diabetes, formerly known as non-insulin dependent or adult-onset diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin, or both.
Until recently, type 2 diabetes was not seen in youth. The SEARCH study found that newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes is extremely rare in children under age 10, but among minority adolescents and young adults 15-19 years of age, high rates of type 2 diabetes were documented among American Indian (49.4 per 100,000 per year), Asian-Pacific Islander (22.7 per 100,000 per years), black (19.4 per 100,000 per year) and Hispanic (17.0 per 100,000 per year) youth. Although relatively infrequent, type 2 diabetes was present among non-Hispanic white youth 15-19 years of age (5.6 per 100,000 per year).
“Information on the rates of diabetes in children is critical to developing policies to keep today’s and tomorrow’s youth healthy,” said Barbara Linder, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
The study investigators will continue to track the incidence of diabetes in youth in all of the various population groups through 2009.
The study was funded by the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NIDDK, a part of the National Institutes of Health. It involves six clinical centers in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington. The central laboratory for the study is the Northwest Lipid Research Laboratories in Seattle.
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,154 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.