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Familial aggregation and heritability of childhood-onset and adult-onset type 1 diabetes: a Swedish register-based cohort study.

BACKGROUND: Type 1 diabetes in children is known to be highly heritable, but much less is known about the heritability of adult-onset type 1 diabetes. Thus, our objective was to compare the familial aggregation and heritability of type 1 diabetes in adults and children.

METHODS: This Swedish nationwide register-based cohort study included individuals born from Jan 1, 1982, to Dec 31, 2010, identified through the Medical Birth Register who were linked to their parents, full siblings, half siblings, and cousins through the Multi-Generation Register (MGR). We excluded multiple births, deaths within the first month of life, individuals who could not be linked to MGR, or individuals with contradictory information on sex. Information on diagnoses of type 1 diabetes was retrieved by linkages to the National Diabetes Register and National Patient Register (1982-2020). Individuals with inconsistent records of diabetes type were excluded. We estimated the cumulative incidence and hazard ratios (HRs) of type 1 diabetes in adults (aged 19-30 years) and children (aged 0-18 years) by family history of type 1 diabetes and the heritability of adult-onset and childhood-onset type 1 diabetes based on tetrachoric correlations, using sibling pairs.

FINDINGS: 2 943 832 individuals were born in Sweden during the study period, 2 832 755 individuals were included in the analysis of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes and 1 805 826 individuals were included in the analysis of adult-onset type 1 diabetes. 3240 cases of adult-onset type 1 diabetes (median onset age 23·4 years [IQR 21·1-26·2]; 1936 [59·7%] male and 1304 [40·2%] female) and 17 914 cases of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes (median onset age 9·8 years [6·2-13·3]; 9819 [54·8%] male and 8095 [45·2%] female) developed during follow-up. Having a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes conferred an HR of 7·21 (95% CI 6·28-8·28) for adult-onset type 1 diabetes and 9·92 (9·38-10·50) for childhood-onset type 1 diabetes. The HR of developing type 1 diabetes before the age 30 years was smaller if a first-degree relative developed type 1 diabetes during adulthood (6·68 [6·04-7·39]) rather than during childhood (10·54 [9·92-11·19]). Similar findings were observed for type 1 diabetes in other relatives. Heritability was lower for adult-onset type 1 diabetes (0·56 [0·45-0·66]) than childhood-onset type 1 diabetes (0·81 [0·77-0·85]).

INTERPRETATION: Adult-onset type 1 diabetes seems to have weaker familial aggregation and lower heritability than childhood-onset type 1 diabetes. This finding suggests a larger contribution of environmental factors to the development of type 1 diabetes in adults than in children and highlights the need to identify and intervene on such factors.

FUNDING: Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, Swedish Diabetes Foundation, and the China Scholarship Council.

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