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Keywords:

  • autoimmune;
  • birth month;
  • narcolepsy;
  • seasonality

Summary

The month of birth has been proposed as a risk factor for narcolepsy, suggesting a harmful influence during early development. Several authors have described an excess of births in March in those developing narcolepsy later. Analysis methods in published studies varied, but no study corrected completely for possible changes in seasonal birth pattern over time in the appropriate population. The present study describes changes in seasonal birth pattern of the entire Dutch population over a 79-year span and compared the monthly birth pattern of Dutch narcoleptics with the population data. Month and year of birth were noted for 307 patients with non-familial narcolepsy with cataplexy, born in the Netherlands between 1923 and 2001. The numbers of live births per month and per year from the entire Dutch population for the same period were used to calculate a virtual data set of expected births per month with exactly the number of cataplexy cases, but with the birth pattern of the Dutch population. Observed and expected numbers per month were compared using the chi-square test. In the 1970s the peak of births shifted from spring to autumn, confirming the need to correct for changing seasonal patterns. There was no significant difference between observed and expected birth numbers per month. An effect of birth month on the occurrence of narcolepsy with cataplexy was not found in a study of 307 cases after adjusting for changing birth patterns in the general population.