Due to a short observation period previous studies may have underestimated prevalence and recurrence risk of IDDM in relatives of IDDM patients. To obtain a more exact life-time risk estimate we identified 310 probands, representative of Danish IDDM patients, characterized by current age more than 50 years, age at onset 40 years or less and diabetes duration of more than 30 years. Family data were obtained from 291 probands. Mean "observation" times (age) (+/- SD) for siblings (n = 553) and offspring (n = 359) were 59.4 +/- 16.1 years and 33.8 +/- 8.8 years, respectively. Of the probands 73 (25.1%) had at least one first-degree relative with IDDM. Seventeen percent had at least one affected sibling. An increase from 10.4% to 22.4% of having first-degree relatives with IDDM among probands with age at onset below 20 years was observed during the period from proband at age 21 years up to 1 September 1992. Among affected siblings 48% of the second cases were affected more than 10 years after the first affected sibling. Using the life-table method cumulative recurrence risks from time of birth were calculated for siblings up to age 30 years of 6.4% and up to age 60 years of 9.6%. For offspring the risk up to age 34 years was 6.3%. In addition, we present a life-table method evaluating the cumulative recurrence risk from time of onset in the proband, as this is the most relevant when giving genetic counselling. In conclusion, the long-term risks of IDDM in siblings and offspring are high compared to that shown in previous reports.