We examined the incidence of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in children 0-17 years of age in Colorado from 1978 to 1988. Cases were ascertained from a statewide registry based on physician surveillance. A total of 1,376 children were diagnosed during this interval in a population averaging 860,000 children. The degree of ascertainment was estimated to be 93.3%. The age-adjusted incidence rate of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus was 14.8/100,000 person-years. The rate was lower in individuals of Spanish origin (Hispanics) (8.7/100,000 person-years) compared with non-Hispanic individuals (15.5/100,000 person-years) (incidence rate ratio = 0.6, 95% confidence interval = 0.4-0.8). Incidence rates were higher in winter and lower in summer for children 5-17 years old. Children diagnosed before the age of 5 years showed no significant seasonal pattern, although peak incidences were observed in autumn and spring. No temporal trend in diabetes incidence was observed overall or by ethnic group. The increasing insulin-dependent diabetes incidence reported by registries in Europe during this time period was not observed in Colorado.