We investigated the effects of gestational age, birth weight, small for gestational age (SGA), and large for gestational age (LGA) on risk of childhood type 1 diabetes.
We conducted a population-based cohort study of all singleton live births in Sweden between 1973 and 2009 and a sibling control study. Perinatal data were extracted from the Swedish Medical Birth Register. Children with type 1 diabetes diagnosis were identified from the Swedish National Patient Register. Log-linear Poisson regression and conditional logistic regression were used for data analysis.
The study cohort consisted of 3,624,675 singleton live births (42,411,054 person-years). There were 13,944 type 1 diabetes cases during the study period. The sibling control study consisted of 11,403 children with type 1 diabetes and 17,920 siblings. Gestational age between 33 and 36 weeks (relative risk [RR] 1.18 [95% CI 1.09, 1.28) and 37 and 38 weeks (RR 1.12 [95% CI 1.07, 1.17]) was associated with type 1 diabetes in the cohort study and remained significant in the sibling control study. SGA (RR 0.83 [95% CI 0.75, 0.93]) and LGA (RR 1.14 [95% CI 1.04, 1.24]) were associated with type 1 diabetes in the cohort study. The SGA association remained unchanged in the sibling study, while the LGA association disappeared. Very low birth weight was associated with a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes.
The findings suggest a small association between gestational age and type 1 diabetes that is not likely due to familial confounding factors. Gestational age and type 1 diabetes may be related to insulin resistance due to early life growth restriction or altered gut microbiota in preterm babies.