May 27 (HealthDay News) -- If current trends continue, cases of type 1 diabetes among European children under 15 will increase by 70 percent by the year 2020, a new study suggests.
Those are among the findings by researchers who analyzed diabetes data from 20 centers in 17 European countries. Those centers registered 29,311 cases of type 1 diabetes between 1989 and 2003.
The overall increase in incidence of the disease was 3.9 percent per year. The annual increase among children aged 4 and younger was 5.4 percent, compared with 4.3 percent among those aged 5 to 9, and 2.9 percent among those aged 10 to 14, the study found.
There were an estimated 15,000 new cases of type 1 diabetes in Europe in 2005, with children aged 4 and younger accounting for 24 percent, those aged 5 to 9 accounting for 37 percent, and those aged 10 to 14 accounting for 34 percent.
The researchers predict that number could reach 24,400 new cases in 2020, with a doubling in the number of cases in children under 5 and a more even distribution across age groups than there is now (29 percent, 37 percent, and 34 percent respectively).
If current trends continue, the total number of new and existing cases in European children under age 15 could rise from 94,000 in 2005 to 160,000 in 2020 -- a 70 percent increase, the study authors noted.
The study, by Dr. Chris Patterson of Queens University Belfast and colleagues, appears online May 28 and in an upcoming print issue of The Lancet.
Genetics alone do not explain the rapid rise in cases, which means that lifestyle factors such as increased weight and height development and increased Cesarean deliveries are possible contributing factors, according to the researchers.
The findings from this and other studies suggest "that the incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing even faster than before, pointing towards harmful changes in the environment in which contemporary children live," Dr. Dana Dabelea, of the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
"It is imperative that efforts directed at surveillance of diabetes in young people continue and expand, not only to understand its complex etiology, but also because of its increasing public health importance," Dabelea said.
SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, May 27, 2009