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Screening 'fails to cut diabetes deaths'

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Researchers have claimed that screening for type 2 diabetes has not reduced the number of deaths.

A study published in The Lancet examined more than 20,000 people living in Eastern England over a decade to determine whether screening for the condition has had any impact on mortality rates.

All the trial subjects were considered to be at high risk of developing diabetes and were aged between 40 and 69.

Thirty-two GP practices took part in the research and were divided into three groups - the first where patients found to have diabetes after one round of screening were given routine care, the second where diagnosis after screening resulted in more thorough management of the condition and the third was a control group which received no checks for diabetes.

The report found that there were not fewer deaths in the two groups where patients had been screened for diabetes. And all three groups had a similar number of people die from diabetes, cardiovascular illness, cancer and other causes.

But those behind the report say these results could be influenced by the fact that the trial took place in a wealthier than average area. The authors say that the study’s findings could have been different if the patients involved had come from more deprived areas where the diabetes risk is potentially higher and fewer people may take up the offer of screening.

According to Dr Simon Griffin, of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK: “The high proportion of undiagnosed cases of diabetes, the substantial number of patients with complications at clinical diagnosis, and the long latent phase of the disease are strong arguments for screening. However, in the large UK sample that we studied, screening for type 2 diabetes in patients at increased risk of the disease was not associated with any reduction in mortality within ten years.”

“It seems that the benefits of screening might be smaller than expected and restricted to individuals with detectable disease. However, benefits to the population could be increased by including the detection and management of cardiovascular risk factors alongside the assessment of diabetes risk, performing repeated rounds of screening, and improving strategies to maximise the uptake of screening.”

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