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Space-time clustering of elevated thyroid stimulating hormone levels

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark PearceORCiD, Dr Richard McNallyORCiD, Professor Timothy Cheetham


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Previous studies of congenital hypothyroidism (CHT) have reported an increasing incidence which may suggest that environmental factors play an aetiological role. If so, then cases may exhibit space-time clustering, where cases occur at similar times and close proximities to other cases. In this study we investigated whether space-time clustering of elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in newborns exists. All infants born in the Northern Region of England are screened by measuring levels of circulating TSH using a blood spot assay. Data on 207 cases of elevated TSH values, as a proxy for CHT, in newborns born from 1994 to 2006 inclusive were available and analysed using rigorous space-time clustering statistical methods. Analysis showed statistically significant evidence of space-time clustering. The strength of clustering was most marked for cases born within 0.1-0.7 year (1-8 months) of one another. This is the first study to find significant space-time clustering of cases of elevated TSH levels in newborns, a surrogate for space-time clustering of CHT. Whilst the reasons for the clustering are unclear, it would appear from this analysis that transient environmental exposures are likely to be involved, although environmental determinants of genetic mutations and epigenetic factors cannot be ruled out. Further research is required to a) validate these results in other populations and b) to assess in more detail the potential environmental determinants of increased CHT risk.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pearce MS, McNally RJQ, Day J, Korada SM, Turner S, Cheetham TD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Epidemiology

Year: 2011

Volume: 26

Issue: 5

Pages: 405-411

Print publication date: 08/04/2011

ISSN (print): 0393-2990

ISSN (electronic): 1573-7284

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s10654-011-9571-8


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