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Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes

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The more you know about your health, the better prepared you are to make informed healthcare decisions. Our health library gives you the information you need to take charge of your health.

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop type 1 diabetes with or without the risk factors listed below. There are no known definite risk factors. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes. The main risk factors include the following:

Family History

If you have a parent, brother, or sister with type 1 diabetes, you (or your child) are at greater risk of having it, too. Scientists continue to believe that genetic factors play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes, but which genes is unclear.

Autoimmune Conditions

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, caused by the body's immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. You may be at a greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes if you have another condition that affects the immune system, such as:

Ethnic Background

You are at an increased risk of type 1 diabetes if your ethnicity is:

  • Northern European
  • Mediterranean
  • African American
  • Hispanic

Other Risk Factors

Other factors that may increase your child's risk of type 1 diabetes include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bottle-feeding or short duration of breastfeeding
  • High birth weight
  • Obesity during childhood
  • Mothers age at childbirth (over 35 years)

Revision Information

  • Diabetes causes. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/causes/index.aspx. Accessed December 31, 2012.

  • Diabetes type 1. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated December 28, 2012. Accessed December 31, 2012.

  • Schatz D, Krischer J, et al. Islet cell antibodies predict insulin-dependent diabetes in United States school age children as powerfully as in unaffected relatives. J Clin Invest. 1994;93:2403-2407.

  • TRIGR study: a new trial investigates environmental triggers in type 1 diabetes [press release]. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International website. Available at: http://www.jdrf.org. August 7, 2002. Accessed December 31, 2012.

  • Type 1 diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/?loc=DropDownDB-type1. Accessed December 31, 2012.

  • 3/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Cardwell CR, Stene LC, et al. Birthweight and the risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a meta-analysis of observational studies using individual patient data. Diabetologia. 2010 Jan 10. [Epub ahead of print]

  • 3/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Cardwell CR, Stene LC, et al. Maternal age at birth and childhood type 1 diabetes: a pooled analysis of 30 observational studies. Diabetes. 2010;59(2):486-494.

  • 4/1/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Verbeeten KC, Elks CE, et al. Association between childhood obesity and subsequent Type 1 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2011;28(1):10-18.