A study published in the Lancet suggests that the number of children under 15 years of age with type 1 diabetes will rise to 160,000 in Europe by 2020, a relative increase of 70 percent from 2005.

The editors' note says it is "already known that type 1 diabetes in children is on the rise. This paper quantifies this increase in incidence in 17 European countries over a 25-year period. The authors then use this data to estimate that by 2020, the incidence of diabetes could increase by 50% in children under 5 years old and as much as 70% in children under 15 years old, meaning that many more children will need access to health care services - a useful point for health policy makers to note."

The authors examined 20 population-based EURODIAB registers in 17 countries, which registered 29,311 new cases of type 1 diabetes diagnosed in children before their 15th birthday during a 15-year period (1989—2003). They then used the estimated rates of increase from five geographical regions, published incidence rates and population projections to predict numbers of new cases throughout Europe in 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2020.

The highest average annual percentage increase in incidence was in the 0-4 year old group (5.4%); the overall increase for 0-15 year olds was 3.9%. Greater increases are expected in the UK, where the incidence of type 1 diabetes seems to be more common than in other European countries, according to FirstWord.

The accompanying editorial said the increase in type 1 incidence is "pointing towards harmful changes in the environment in which contemporary children live." Data from the U.S. (although the registries are less coordinated) suggest similar trends.

"The changing disease patterns mean that young people with diabetes will have a longer duration of exposure to an altered metabolic milieu, which substantially increases the risk of chronic microvascular and macrovascular complications."

What about the environment makes it more permissive toward type 1? They aren't sure. Genetics alone do not explain the rapid rise in cases, according to Forbes, which means that lifestyle factors such as increased weight and height development, infections and viruses, and increased Cesarean deliveries are possible contributing factors.