, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 784-788
Date: 11 Jun 2003

Atopic eczema in early childhood could be protective against Type 1 diabetes

Abstract

Aims/hypothesis

According to the Th1/Th2 paradigm Type 1 diabetes and atopic diseases are assumed to be mutually exclusive on the individual level. We analysed the association between Type 1 diabetes and atopic diseases in a case-control design in order to test the hypothesis that atopic diseases in early childhood could protect against Type 1 diabetes.

Methods

We carried out a nationwide population-based case-control study enrolling 760 cases newly-diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes under five years of age between July 1992 and December 1995 and 1871 controls randomly selected from the general population and individually matched on sex, age and place of residence. Information on atopic diseases was obtained by a mailed parent-administered questionnaire. Data were analysed by multivariate logistic regression adjusting for potential confounders (family history of diabetes, social status, duration of overall breast feeding, number of children in family, maternal age at delivery).

Results

Atopic eczema was less frequent in diabetic (13.3%) than in non-diabetic children (18.0%) and was significantly associated with a reduced risk of Type 1 diabetes. The adjusted odds ratio was 0.71 (95% CI 0.53-0.96). Hay fever and asthma were not significantly associated with diabetes risk (OR 0.98 (95% CI 0.47-2.01) and 1.46 (95% CI 0.70-3.06), respectively).

Conclusion/interpretation

In this large population-based case-control study in pre-school children an inverse association was observed between atopic eczema and Type 1 diabetes. Thus, in accordance with the Th1/Th2 paradigm development of atopic eczema in early childhood could be protective against childhood Type 1 diabetes.