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U of M study shows early diabetes screening can save lives

Oskar Annermarken

A new study provides some of the strongest support to date for early screening and diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

The study, led by University of Michigan endocrinologist William Herman, made use of data from a European study that enrolled people between 40 and 69 without known diabetes, and evaluated the potential benefit of screening and treatment for diabetes.

It was inconclusive.

However, when teamed up with Herman’s Michigan Model for type 2 diabetes, which simulates the progression of the disease and its complications, the study revealed a clear benefit for early screening and diagnosis.

The difference in the two methods, according to Herman, is that it is not ethical to conduct a real-life randomized study. That would mean some patients do not receive screening and potential treatment.

However, the Michigan Model was able to provide a reliably accurate representation of outcomes for theoretical patients who had a three- or six-year delay in receiving a diagnosis.

The study showed a 29% reduction in relative risk of a cardiovascular event over a 10-year period for patients who received prompt screening and treatment, and a 20% reduction in relative risk of mortality generally.

Herman says early screening was defined as the patient being over 45 years old and having additional cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity or a family history of type 2 diabetes.

Attitudes among physicians towards screening for diabetes have been evolving.

“For a long time, screening was not recommended because it was unclear that it really would change outcomes. I think this study really provides the best scientific evidence for screening diabetes,” says Herman. 

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