Aims: There are continuing uncertainties about how much screening for type 2 diabetes brings forward the clinical diagnosis and the impact that earlier diagnosis has on health outcomes. We compared the duration of diabetes and health outcomes in a population invited for diabetes screening at 5-yearly intervals from 1990 (screened population) with those in a similar population not invited for screening (unscreened population).
Methods: This was a parallel-group, cohort study of people aged 40-65 years, free of known diabetes, identified from the population register of a general practice in Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK (n = 4,936). In 1990-1992, one-third (n = 1,705), selected randomly, received an invitation for screening for diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors at 5-yearly intervals (screened population). From the remainder of the sampling frame, 1,705 randomly selected individuals were invited to diabetes screening 10 years later (unscreened population). Patients with diabetes from both populations were invited for a health assessment, including biochemical, anthropometric and questionnaire measures, and testing for the presence of diabetic complications
Results: Of the 199 eligible individuals with diabetes diagnosed during follow-up, 152 (76%) attended for health assessment. The median duration of clinically recognised diabetes was significantly longer in cases arising in the screened (5.0 years) compared with the unscreened population (1.7 years; p = 0.006). Clinical measures, prescribed medication and functional status were similar between screened and unscreened populations.
Conclusions: Diabetes screening resulted in cases being identified on average 3.3 years earlier, a difference significantly shorter than previous estimates. Earlier diagnosis did not appear to impact on health outcomes. Further evidence is needed to justify the introduction of population-based screening.