The big screen – tackling diabetes early to avoid complications

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have launched a major study to assess the benefits of screening for Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, and is on the increase, due largely to the rise in obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

The study, named ADDITION, is based at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care. Launching the study, one of the Principal Investigators Dr Simon Griffin, explained its aim.

“Undetected diabetes is common and often people are suffering quite serious complications by the time they become aware that they have the disease. Although it seems obvious that early detection will result in benefits, this remains to be proven. The ADDITION study will provide important information which will help decide whether screening can make a major impact on reducing the burden of diabetes complications.

“As a major cause of heart disease, visual problems, renal complications and foot disorders diabetes is a serious problem for sufferers and a costly one for taxpayers, accounting for 5-8% of total NHS expenditure,” said Dr Griffin.

20,000 middle-aged people across Cambridgeshire who are potentially at increased risk of diabetes are being sent invitations to visit their local GPs for a simple finger-prick blood test. Those whose results are elevated will then be invited back for diagnostic tests.

The team expect to identify 1,000 people who have diabetes but who are unaware of it. These people will be followed up over the next five years to assess how far early detection has been able to prevent the complications of diabetes.

The study is supported by just under £1 million in grants from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council and by £2 million in additional funding from the National Health Service through its Research and Development Programme.

The study has been welcomed by Professor Richard Himsworth, the Department of Health Portfolio Director for Research on Diabetes.

“The ADDITION study addresses some of the key questions about screening for diabetes. Who should be screened – everyone or just some people? Would patients benefit in the long term from earlier diagnosis ? Simple questions but the answers are very important because diabetes is a common disease,” said Professor Himsworth.

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