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Amy Dugas Rose
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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Life Expectancy for Those With Type 1 Diabetes Improving, Pitt Study Shows

PITTSBURGH, June 24, 2011 – The life expectancy of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes dramatically increased during the course of a 30-year, long-term prospective study, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study being presented at the 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

The life expectancy for participants diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1965 and 1980 was 68.8 years – a 15-year improvement, compared to those diagnosed between 1950 and 1964, according to the study. Meanwhile, the life expectancy of the general U.S. population increased less than one year during the same time period.

“The estimated 15-year life expectancy improvement between the two groups persisted regardless of gender or pubertal status at diagnosis,” said Trevor J. Orchard, M.D., lead author of the study and  professor of epidemiology, pediatrics and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

The results, found in Abstract Number 0078-OR, are based on participants in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications (EDC) study, a long-term prospective study of childhood onset type 1 diabetes, which began in 1986. Participants in the study, who were an average age of 28 when entering the study and 44 at its completion, were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1950 and 1980.

“Type 1 diabetes mortality rates have decreased over time, but formal life expectancy estimates for those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States are lacking,” Orchard said. “Therefore, we estimated the all-cause mortality experience and life expectancy of the EDC study cohort.”

The 30-year mortality of participants diagnosed with type 1 diabetes from 1965 to 1980 was 11.6 percent – a significant decline from the 35.6 percent 30-year mortality of those diagnosed between 1950 and 1964, according to the study. 

Previously known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin to properly control blood sugar levels. It is typically treated with insulin replacement therapy.

In addition to Dr. Orchard, other authors include Rachel G. Miller, M.S.; Aaron M. Secrest, Ph.D.; Ravi K. Sharma, Ph.D.; and Thomas J. Songer, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), founded in 1948 and now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, conducts research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world. GSPH is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health issues. For more information about GSPH, visit the school’s Web site at http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu.  

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