Birth month (hence month of conception) linked to disease risk (in New York)

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M. R. Boland, Z. Shahn, D. Madigan, G. Hripcsak, N. P. Tatonetti. Birth Month Affects Lifetime Disease Risk: A Phenome-Wide Method.Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2015; DOI:10.1093/jamia/ocv046

This is not so much a medical study as a data analysis of the health records of 1.7 million people in New York. It is about correlations and not about causations but could, of course, lead to insights about causations. While the study and all the headlines focus on month of birth, I note that month of birth automatically implies month of conception. I would have thought that there was a greater chance of any genetic effects being associated with the time of conception rather than the time of birth. And if the time of conception is really of some significance, then it begs the question whether the “quality” of sperm or ova are affected by time or follow some seasonal or cyclic pattern.

In any event, the association of season with health suggests that the sun is playing a role. And if the sun can play a role (gravitational?) then so can the moon and other celestial bodies. Which sounds suspiciously like Astrology.

The study finds

  • Overall, babies born in October had the highest risk of disease, and those born in May had the lowest risk.
  • Asthma risk was highest for July and October babies.
  • November babies were at the highest risk for developing ADHD.
  • Babies born in March faced the highest risk for heart problems including atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and mitral valve disorder.
  • Winter babies were at a higher risk of neurological problems.

Babies born in October would have been conceived in December and those born in May would have been conceived in July. And that means that conception during the summer holiday period produces babies with less risk of disease than babies conceived during the Christmas holidays.

Press ReleaseColumbia University scientists have developed a computational method to investigate the relationship between birth month and disease risk. The researchers used this algorithm to examine New York City medical databases and found 55 diseases that correlated with the season of birth. Overall, the study indicated people born in May had the lowest disease risk, and those born in October the highest. The study was published this week in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association. ……. 

Earlier research on individual diseases such as ADHD and asthma suggested a connection between birth season and incidence, but no large-scale studies had been undertaken. This motivated Columbia’s scientists to compare 1,688 diseases against the birth dates and medical histories of 1.7 million patients treated at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/CUMC between 1985 and 2013. …….. The study ruled out more than 1,600 associations and confirmed 39 links previously reported in the medical literature. The researchers also uncovered 16 new associations, including nine types of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. The researchers performed statistical tests to check that the 55 diseases for which they found associations did not arise by chance. ……

……….. The new data are consistent with previous research on individual diseases. For example, the study authors found that asthma risk is greatest for July and October babies. An earlier Danish study on the disease found that the peak risk was in the months (May and August) when Denmark’s sunlight levels are similar to New York’s in the July and October period.

For ADHD, the Columbia data suggest that around one in 675 occurrences could relate to being born in New York in November. This result matches a Swedish study showing peak rates of ADHD in November babies.

The researchers also found a relationship between birth month and nine types of heart disease, with people born in March facing the highest risk for atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and mitral valve disorder. One in 40 atrial fibrillation cases may relate to seasonal effects for a March birth. A previous study using Austrian and Danish patient records found that those born in months with higher heart disease rates—March through June—had shorter life spans.

Tatonetti Lab disease and time of birth

Tatonetti Lab disease and time of birth

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