European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 405–411 | Cite as

Space–time clustering of elevated thyroid stimulating hormone levels

  • Mark S. Pearce
  • Richard J. Q. McNally
  • Julie Day
  • S. Murthy Korada
  • Steve Turner
  • Tim D. Cheetham


Previous studies of congenital hypothyroidism (CHT) have reported an increasing incidence which may suggest that environmental factors play an aetiological role. If so, then cases may exhibit space–time clustering, where cases occur at similar times and close proximities to other cases. In this study we investigated whether space–time clustering of elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in newborns exists. All infants born in the Northern Region of England are screened by measuring levels of circulating TSH using a blood spot assay. Data on 207 cases of elevated TSH values, as a proxy for CHT, in newborns born from 1994 to 2006 inclusive were available and analysed using rigorous space–time clustering statistical methods. Analysis showed statistically significant evidence of space–time clustering. The strength of clustering was most marked for cases born within 0.1–0.7 year (1–8 months) of one another. This is the first study to find significant space–time clustering of cases of elevated TSH levels in newborns, a surrogate for space–time clustering of CHT. Whilst the reasons for the clustering are unclear, it would appear from this analysis that transient environmental exposures are likely to be involved, although environmental determinants of genetic mutations and epigenetic factors cannot be ruled out. Further research is required to a) validate these results in other populations and b) to assess in more detail the potential environmental determinants of increased CHT risk.


Congenital hypothyroidism TSH Clustering Thyroid Pediatric endocrinology 



We would like to thank David Allison for his help in collecting and compiling these data.

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research reported. This research did not receive any specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sector.

Supplementary material

10654_2011_9571_MOESM1_ESM.doc (94 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 93 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark S. Pearce
    • 1
  • Richard J. Q. McNally
    • 1
  • Julie Day
    • 2
  • S. Murthy Korada
    • 3
  • Steve Turner
    • 4
  • Tim D. Cheetham
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Health and Society, Sir James Spence Institute, Royal Victoria InfirmaryNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK
  2. 2.Department of Clinical BiochemistryUniversity Hospital of North DurhamDurhamUK
  3. 3.Department of Paediatric EndocrinologyRoyal Victoria InfirmaryNewcastle-upon-TyneUK
  4. 4.Department of Clinical BiochemistryRoyal Victoria InfirmaryNewcastle Upon TyneUK
  5. 5.Institute of Human Genetics, Centre for LifeNewcastle UniversityNewcastle-upon-TyneUK

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