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Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes

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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
  • Native American

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

  • Causes of diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Updated June 2014. Accessed September 8, 2015.

  • Diabetes mellitus type 1. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 27, 2015. Accessed September 8, 2015.

  • Schatz D, Krischer J, Horne G, 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(6):2403-2407.

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

  • Type 1 diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: Accessed December 31, 2012.

  • 3/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Cardwell CR, Stene LC, Joner G, et al. Birthweight and the risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a meta-analysis of observational studies using individual patient data. Diabetologia. 2010;53(4):641-651.

  • 3/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Cardwell CR, Stene LC, Joner G, 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. Verbeeten KC, Elks CE, Daneman D, Ong KK. Association between childhood obesity and subsequent Type 1 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2011;28(1):10-18.