The aim of this study was to investigate incidence trend of childhood type 1 diabetes in Shanghai, a megalopolis in east China. We established a population-based retrospective registry for the disease in the city's registered population during 1997-2011 and collected 622 incident type 1 diabetes in children aged 0-14 years. Standardized incidence rates and 95 % CI were estimated by applying the capture-recapture method and assuming Poisson distribution. Incidence trend was analyzed using the Poisson regression model. The mean annual incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes was 3.1 per 100,000 person-years. We did not observe significant difference in incidence between boys and girls. The incidence is unstable and had a mean annual increase 14.2 % per year during the studied period. A faster annual increase was observed in boys, warmer seasons, and in the outer regions of the city. If present trends continue, the number of new type 1 diabetes cases will double from 2016 to 2020, and prevalent cases will sextuple by 2025. Our results showed the incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes was rising rapidly in Shanghai. More studies are needed to analyze incidence changes in other regions of China for appropriate allocation of healthcare resources.