Back to Ask the Diabetes Team Ask the Diabetes Team

From San Jose, California, USA:

Is diabetes recessive or dominant, and how is it inherited? A lot of my ancestors have diabetes and I wanted to know the chance I would get diabetes.


The inheritance of diabetes is rather more complicated than the simple Mendelian concept of dominant and recessive, autosomal or sex-linked. Type 1 Diabetes depends to some extent on the inherited pattern of certain white blood cell surface proteins, usually referred to as HLA types. However, there is an environmental component which is a major factor in deciding whether those who are 'at risk' will develop clinical diabetes. This was realised when it was found that identical twins were discordant for this kind of diabetes. What the factor(s) are is not known: for a number of years early exposure to cow's milk was thought to be one; but this has subsequently been discounted.

In adult onsetdiabetes, it is even harder to be precise about the likelihood of developing the condition. In some cases especially amongst Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young specific chromosomal abnormalities have been defined; but there has not been time to assemble the family trees needed to define the actual mode of inheritance. For the majority of Type 2 Diabetics the mechanisms are not defined in precise molecular or chromosomal terms. Ethnic factors are also important.

Finally, there is the factor of stress which may hasten the onset of any form of diabetes and perhaps the commonest of these in later life is age. You write about 'ancestors' which suggest that you have no first degree relatives with any form of diabetes. This in turn would suggest that your chances of getting the disease are no more than for the population as a whole, age adjusted.


Original posting 20 Jan 97


  Back to Ask the Diabetes Team Return to the Top of This Page

Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
This Internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult with a physician or other health care professional.

This site is published by T-1 Today, Inc. (d/b/a Children with Diabetes), a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which is responsible for its contents. Our mission is to provide education and support to families living with type 1 diabetes.
By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use, Legal Notice, and Privacy Policy.
© Children with Diabetes, Inc. 1995-2018. Comments and Feedback.