Aims/hypothesis: This study is an analysis of the relationship between ultraviolet B (UVB) irradiance, the primary source of circulating vitamin D in humans, and age-standardised incidence rates of type 1 diabetes mellitus in children, according to region of the world.
Methods: The association of UVB irradiance adjusted for cloud cover to incidence rates of type 1 diabetes in children aged <14 years during 1990--1994 in 51 regions worldwide was assessed using multiple regression. Incidence data were obtained from the Diabetes Mondial Project Group.
Results: Incidence rates were generally higher at higher latitudes (R2 = 0.25, p < 0.001). According to multiple regression, UVB irradiance adjusted for cloud cover was inversely associated with incidence rates (p < 0.05), while per capita health expenditure (p < 0.004) was positively associated (overall R2 = 0.42, p < 0.0001).
Conclusions/interpretation: An association was found between low UVB irradiance and high incidence rates of type 1 childhood diabetes after controlling for per capita health expenditure. Incidence rates of type 1 diabetes approached zero in regions worldwide with high UVB irradiance, adding new support to the concept of a role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of the disease.