News & Commentary

Earlier Diabetes Increases Mortality


Two men are the same age and they’ve both been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. One was diagnosed 10 years before the other, though. The man with the earlier onset of type 2 diabetes has about a 30% to 60% greater risk of dying from any cause, according to a study published in Diabetologia in February. The main cause of the increased risk of death is due mainly to cardiovascular disease.

“In a unique approach, we demonstrated that younger age at diagnosis was consistently associated with higher all-cause and CVD mortality (relative to older age at diagnosis) across the range of age at diagnosis and in both men and women in the entire Australian diabetic population,” the study states.

The data come from 743,709 Australians with type 2 diabetes between 1997 to 2011. Researchers from Bei­jing Jishuitan Hospital in China linked a diabetes database to the country’s death records.

So, what does this mean on the ground?

The researchers suggested that those at high risk of developing diabetes be identified through screening so that they can be encouraged to make lifestyle changes that will prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

The study also found that cardiovascular disease mortality increased exponentially with age in both sexes and across all groups who were diagnosed at different ages.

The researchers note that the link between type 2 diabetes and cancer has long been documented.

“Interestingly, we found that earlier age at diagnosis of diabetes seemed to be related to lower cancer mortality, which was in contrast to CVD mortality,” the authors state. “It is possible that following a diagnosis of diabetes, people have more frequent contact with the health care system, which may increase the likelihood of any present but undiagnosed cancer being detected.”

The authors say that it is not fully understood just why age at diagnosis and duration of diabetes are related to mortality. They did note that people with early-onset type 2 diabetes are more likely to have poorer glucose control, untreated hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.