Joint effects of common genetic variants on the risk for type 2 diabetes in U.S. men and women of European ancestry

Ann Intern Med. 2009 Apr 21;150(8):541-50. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-150-8-200904210-00008.


Background: Genome-wide association studies have identified novel type 2 diabetes loci, each of which has a modest impact on risk.

Objective: To examine the joint effects of several type 2 diabetes risk variants and their combination with conventional risk factors on type 2 diabetes risk in 2 prospective cohorts.

Design: Nested case-control study.

Setting: United States.

Participants: 2809 patients with type 2 diabetes and 3501 healthy control participants of European ancestry from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses' Health Study.

Measurements: A genetic risk score (GRS) was calculated on the basis of 10 polymorphisms in 9 loci.

Results: After adjustment for age and body mass index (BMI), the odds ratio for type 2 diabetes with each point of GRS, corresponding to 1 risk allele, was 1.19 (95% CI, 1.14 to 1.24) and 1.16 (CI, 1.12 to 1.20) for men and women, respectively. Persons with a BMI of 30 kg/m(2) or greater and a GRS in the highest quintile had an odds ratio of 14.06 (CI, 8.90 to 22.18) compared with persons with a BMI less than 25 kg/m(2) and a GRS in the lowest quintile after adjustment for age and sex. Persons with a positive family history of diabetes and a GRS in the highest quintile had an odds ratio of 9.20 (CI, 5.50 to 15.40) compared with persons without a family history of diabetes and with a GRS in the lowest quintile. The addition of the GRS to a model of conventional risk factors improved discrimination by 1% (P < 0.001).

Limitation: The study focused only on persons of European ancestry; whether GRS is associated with type 2 diabetes in other ethnic groups remains unknown.

Conclusion: Although its discriminatory value is currently limited, a GRS that combines information from multiple genetic variants might be useful for identifying subgroups with a particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.

Primary funding source: National Institutes of Health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • ROC Curve
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Whites / genetics*