Distribution and Incidence

Recent estimates of overall worldwide incidence of Down syndrome are around 0.8 per 1,000 live births (Janerich and Bracken 1986). In the United States, the 1983 Birth Defects Monitoring Program indicated an incidence of 0.82 per 1,000 live births. These figures evidence a decline from those reported 20 years ago in Western countries, where incidence was about 1.7 per 1,000. This change is thought to be the result of the use of prenatal diagnosis.

Down syndrome occurs in all races and ethnic groups, though good documentation of specific incidence in many groups and geographic areas is lacking (Lilienfeld 1969). There is some evidence for spatial aggregation, such as in northern Finland and British Columbia (Janerich and Bracken 1986), but these instances appear to be sporadic, and are probably related to environmental sources.

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