Your Birth Month Could Affect Your Disease Risk

Happy Birthday cupcakeDid you celebrate a birthday last month? Congratulations. You were born in the month with the lowest lifetime risk of disease.

That’s one of the findings of an intriguing new Columbia University study that found an association between birth month and risk of disease.

Although a link between when birth month and some conditions, such as asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has been found in past, smaller studies, the Columbia researchers designed a computer algorithm to take a much broader look.

They examined medical data from New York–Presbyterian Hospital from 1985 to 2013 to look for links between birth month and a lifetime risk of nearly 1,700 diseases.

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The results, based on 1.7 million patients born between 1900 and 2000, were “fascinating,” said lead author Mary Regina Boland, a doctoral graduate student at Columbia, “because it illustrates months that are at increased risk for certain diseases and also months that are at decreased risk,” she told AARP.

The scientists found 55 diseases linked to certain birth months, including nine types of heart disease. People born in March faced the highest risk for atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), congestive heart failure and mitral valve disorder. One in 40 atrial fibrillation cases may relate to seasonal effects for a March birth, according to the study.

Overall, the study found that May had the lowest risk of disease.

Boland said she tries to avoid assigning a “best month to be born in.” But for older adults, “I would say that October and November are actually better birth months because those months are at decreased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases, the No. 1 cause of death in the United States.”

Below, you can see the results of the study.

Birth month and disease incidence in 1.7 million patients infographic

Senior author Nicholas Tatonetti, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics, said people may initially chuckle at the research, but “a lot of emphasis in research is now being placed on figuring out the impact of the environment on development and disease.”

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“What is most exciting about this study is that it opens up a new avenue for [this] type of research. If we know that a particular environmental factor will change with the seasons, we can use our methods to explore its relationship to disease,” he said in an email.

Just don’t get overly nervous if you were born in a month indicating a higher risk of some disease, he added. “The risk related to birth month is relatively minor when compared to more influential variables like diet and exercise.”

Photo: RuthBlack/iStock

Infographic: Courtesy Nicholas Tatonetti, Columbia University

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