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Birth Month May Determine Risk For Certain Diseases

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - Since humans first gazed at the heavens, birth months have been examined for clues about our personalities, and the lives we lead. Now, scientists have discovered our birth months may actually determine our risk of developing certain diseases in our lifetimes.

Researchers at Columbia University have found an individual's birth month correlates with their risk for heart, respiratory, neurological and reproductive disorders.

The Columbia researchers developed an algorithm and examined a century's worth of health records for 1.7 million New York City residents.

"We examined for approximately 1600 diseases for birth month dependencies," said Dr. Nicholas Tatonetti, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University Medical Center and Columbia's Data Science Institute. "We looked for significant deviations -- whether a particular month or seasons of the year -- that seemed to indicate a higher risk of developing a particular disease."

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This data visualization maps the statistical relationship between birth month and disease incidence in the electronic records of 1.7 million New York City patients. (Credit: Dr. Nick Tatonetti, Columbia University Medical Center)

The chart mapping the birth months with the highest incidence of disease looks a lot like an astrological chart. People born in May have the lowest risk for disease overall; people born in October and November have the highest.

Cardiovascular risk is highest for those born in early Spring. January correlates with hypertension. The highest incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses is in September and October. The results for ADHD matches a similar study in Sweden, with peak rates in November.

"It's important not to get overly nervous about these results," said Tatonetti. "Even though there are high risk months... the risk is not that great that you should worry when your baby is going to be born or when you might have been born."

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Tatonetti cautions there are many other variables that determine an individual's health, such as nutritional, environmental and socio-economic factors.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Since determining a correlation between some 55 diseases and the month of birth, Columbia researchers now plan to apply their computational method to populations across the country which would likely include cities in California, the most populated state in the nation.


Can your birth month predict disease risk? by Columbia University Irving Medical Center on YouTube
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