Screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 May 29;5(5):CD005266. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005266.pub2.


Background: Diabetes mellitus, a metabolic disorder characterised by hyperglycaemia and associated with a heavy burden of microvascular and macrovascular complications, frequently remains undiagnosed. Screening of apparently healthy individuals may lead to early detection and treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus and may prevent or delay the development of related complications.

Objectives: To assess the effects of screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Search methods: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, LILACS, the WHO ICTRP, and from inception. The date of the last search was May 2019 for all databases. We applied no language restrictions.

Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials involving adults and children without known diabetes mellitus, conducted over at least three months, that assessed the effect of diabetes screening (mass, targeted, or opportunistic) compared to no diabetes screening.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently screened titles and abstracts for potential relevance and reviewed the full-texts of potentially relevant studies, extracted data, and carried out 'Risk of bias' assessment using the Cochrane 'Risk of bias' tool. We assessed the overall certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.

Main results: We screened 4651 titles and abstracts identified by the search and assessed 92 full-texts/records for inclusion. We included one cluster-randomised trial, the ADDITION-Cambridge study, which involved 20,184 participants from 33 general practices in Eastern England and assessed the effects of inviting versus not inviting high-risk individuals to screening for diabetes. The diabetes risk score was used to identify high-risk individuals; it comprised variables relating to age, sex, body mass index, and the use of prescribed steroid and anti-hypertensive medication. Twenty-seven practices were randomised to the screening group (11,737 participants actually attending screening) and 5 practices to the no-screening group (4137 participants). In both groups, 36% of participants were women; the average age of participants was 58.2 years in the screening group and 57.9 years in the no-screening group. Almost half of participants in both groups were on antihypertensive medication. The findings from the first phase of this study indicate that screening compared to no screening for type 2 diabetes did not show a clear difference in all-cause mortality (hazard ratio (HR) 1.06, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.90 to 1.25, low-certainty evidence). Screening compared to no screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus showed an HR of 1.26, 95% CI 0.75 to 2.12 (low-certainty evidence) for diabetes-related mortality (based on whether diabetes was reported as a cause of death on the death certificate). Diabetes-related morbidity and health-related quality of life were only reported in a subsample and did not show a substantial difference between the screening intervention and control. The included study did not report on adverse events, incidence of type 2 diabetes, glycosylated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), and socioeconomic effects.

Authors' conclusions: We are uncertain about the effects of screening for type 2 diabetes on all-cause mortality and diabetes-related mortality. Evidence was available from one study only. We are therefore unable to draw any firm conclusions relating to the health outcomes of early type 2 diabetes mellitus screening. Furthermore, the included study did not assess all of the outcomes prespecified in the review (diabetes-related morbidity, incidence of type 2 diabetes, health-related quality of life, adverse events, socioeconomic effects).

Trial registration: NCT00318032.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged

Associated data