AIM: To investigate the relation between lens thickness and duration of insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). METHODS: From the new population based Danish twin register, containing 20,888 twin pairs born between 1953 and 1982 (inclusive), all twin pairs having one or both partners affected with IDDM were searched. Among the 45 twin pairs available for clinical eye examination there were 15 monozygotic pairs, 14 dizygotic pairs of same sex, and 16 dizygotic pairs of opposite sex. Lens thickness was measured by ultrasonography. Using a twin control design, the relation between lens thickness and duration of IDDM was assessed by estimating the correlation between the intrapair difference in lens thickness and the intrapair difference in diabetes duration. RESULTS: In monozygotic twin pairs a statistically highly significant correlation between duration of diabetes and lens thickness was found (right eye: r = 0.88, p < 0.0001; left eye: r = 0.90, p < 0.0001). In dizygotic twin pairs of the same sex the correlations were r = 0.58 (p = 0.029) and r = 0.53 (p = 0.053) for right eye and left eye, respectively. For dizygotic twin pairs of opposite sex the correlations were r = 0.58 (p = 0.018) and r = 0.69 (p = 0.005) for right eye and left eye, respectively. The slope in regression analysis were similar for monozygotic twin pairs (0.025, common for both eyes) and dizygotic twin pairs grouped (0.024, common for both eyes). CONCLUSIONS: There is a statistically significant positive correlation between duration of IDDM and lens thickness, as assessed by the twin control method. The higher correlation in monozygotic twins compared with dizygotic twins suggests that genetic factors play an additional role in the determination of lens thickness. The similar slopes in regression analysis indicate that the effect of diabetes duration on lens thickness is independent of zygosity.