THURSDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- The rate of autism spectrum disorders continues to rise among American children, with one in 88 now receiving such a diagnosis, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
That's an increase from the one in 110 estimate released by the CDC just two years ago. The newer data, from 2008, also shows that autism is almost five times more common in boys than girls, with one in 54 boys diagnosed with the condition.
Why the steady uptick in cases? That's not entirely clear, experts said.
"We know that people want answers to what's causing this increase, and so do we," Coleen Boyle, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said during a noon press briefing on Thursday.
"Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served," she said. "Although exactly how much is attributable to these factors is not known."
Mark Roithmayr, president of the national advocacy group Autism Speaks, theorized that about half of the increase is accounted for by better diagnosis. But he agreed that the reasons for the rest of the increase remain unknown.
According to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, "Autism is a complex condition, and there remain many unanswered questions." Speaking at the press conference, he said that "we are learning more every day, but still have a great deal to learn."
What is known, according to Roithmayr, is that, "very clearly now, there is an autism epidemic in the United States." And the increase in incidence -- about a 23 percent jump every two years -- has been ongoing, he said.
The report was published Thursday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
According to the new CDC numbers, the rate of children being diagnosed with autism varies widely by state: From one in 210 in Alabama to
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