Background: The increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes poses a major public health challenge. Population-based screening and early treatment for type 2 diabetes could reduce this growing burden. However, uncertainty persists around the benefits of screening for type 2 diabetes. We assessed the effect of a population-based stepwise screening programme on mortality.
Methods: In a pragmatic parallel group, cluster-randomised trial, 33 general practices in eastern England were randomly assigned by the method of minimisation in an unbalanced design to: screening followed by intensive multifactorial treatment for people diagnosed with diabetes (n=15); screening plus routine care of diabetes according to national guidelines (n=13); and a no-screening control group (n=5). The study population consisted of 20,184 individuals aged 40-69 years (mean 58 years), at high risk of prevalent undiagnosed diabetes, on the basis of a previously validated risk score. In screening practices, individuals were invited to a stepwise programme including random capillary blood glucose and glycated haemoglobin (HbA(1c)) tests, a fasting capillary blood glucose test, and a confirmatory oral glucose tolerance test. The primary outcome was all-cause mortality. All participants were flagged for mortality surveillance by the England and Wales Office of National Statistics. Analysis was by intention-to-screen and compared all-cause mortality rates between screening and control groups. This study is registered, number ISRCTN86769081.
Findings: Of 16,047 high-risk individuals in screening practices, 15,089 (94%) were invited for screening during 2001-06, 11,737 (73%) attended, and 466 (3%) were diagnosed with diabetes. 4137 control individuals were followed up. During 184,057 person-years of follow up (median duration 9·6 years [IQR 8·9-9·9]), there were 1532 deaths in the screening practices and 377 in control practices (mortality hazard ratio [HR] 1·06, 95% CI 0·90-1·25). We noted no significant reduction in cardiovascular (HR 1·02, 95% CI 0·75-1·38), cancer (1·08, 0·90-1·30), or diabetes-related mortality (1·26, 0·75-2·10) associated with invitation to screening.
Interpretation: In this large UK sample, screening for type 2 diabetes in patients at increased risk was not associated with a reduction in all-cause, cardiovascular, or diabetes-related mortality within 10 years. The benefits of screening might be smaller than expected and restricted to individuals with detectable disease.
Funding: Wellcome Trust; UK Medical Research Council; National Health Service research and development support; UK National Institute for Health Research; University of Aarhus, Denmark; Bio-Rad.
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