HbA(1c) as a screening tool for detection of Type 2 diabetes: a systematic review

Diabet Med. 2007 Apr;24(4):333-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2007.02106.x. Epub 2007 Mar 15.


Aim: To assess the validity of glycated haemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c)) as a screening tool for early detection of Type 2 diabetes.

Methods: Systematic review of primary cross-sectional studies of the accuracy of HbA(1c) for the detection of Type 2 diabetes using the oral glucose tolerance test as the reference standard and fasting plasma glucose as a comparison. RESULTS Nine studies met the inclusion criteria. At certain cut-off points, HbA(1c) has slightly lower sensitivity than fasting plasma glucose (FPG) in detecting diabetes, but slightly higher specificity. For HbA(1c) at a Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and UK Prospective Diabetes Study comparable cut-off point of > or = 6.1%, the sensitivity ranged from 78 to 81% and specificity 79 to 84%. For FPG at a cut-off point of > or = 6.1 mmol/l, the sensitivity ranged from 48 to 64% and specificity from 94 to 98%. Both HbA(1c) and FPG have low sensitivity for the detection of impaired glucose tolerance (around 50%). CONCLUSIONS HbA(1c) and FPG are equally effective screening tools for the detection of Type 2 diabetes. The HbA(1c) cut-off point of > 6.1% was the recommended optimum cut-off point for HbA(1c) in most reviewed studies; however, there is an argument for population-specific cut-off points as optimum cut-offs vary by ethnic group, age, gender and population prevalence of diabetes. Previous studies have demonstrated that HbA(1c) has less intra-individual variation and better predicts both micro- and macrovascular complications. Although the current cost of HbA(1c) is higher than FPG, the additional benefits in predicting costly preventable clinical complications may make this a cost-effective choice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test / methods
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • ROC Curve
  • Reference Standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A