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Negative diabetes screen won't harm patients

By Mark Pownall

Screening for diabetes in primary care will not give those with a negative result a false sense of security, according to a new study.

The study, from researchers at the Institute of Public Health, Cambridge found that people who had a negative result did not feel immune from the risk of diabetes. They had no intention of increasing behaviour that might increase their risk and did not change how they rated their own health.

The researchers compared 4,370 patients taking part in a primary care diabetes screening project with 964 controls and found no differences three to six months and 12 to 15 months after the test.

The study aimed to measure potential harm that might arise from a diabetes screening programme where the vast majority of patients would have a negative test, and who might then go on to adopt more unhealthy behaviour than they would otherwise.

But the findings of the study - part of a large trial identifying diabetes in primary care and treating intensively as appropriate - were reassuring, say the researchers.

Lead researcher Dr Charlotte Paddison, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Cambridge General Practice Research Unit commented: ‘Attending a primary care diabetes screening programme would be unlikely to lead to an adverse shift in the population distribution of plasma glucose and cardiovascular risk as a result of an increase in unhealthy behaviours arising from false reassurances among people who screen negative.'

British Medical Journal 2009; 339 online first 30 November

Diabetes screening

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