Aims: To determine the risk perception of Type 2 diabetes in participants in a stepwise population-screening programme. Methods: This study was carried out within the framework of a stepwise Type 2 diabetes population screening in the general (age 50-75 years) Dutch population. Main outcome measures were perceived risk of having diabetes and perceived seriousness of diabetes, based on a self-report questionnaire, completed before being informed about the diagnosis (Type 2 diabetes yes/no) of the screening procedure. Among 7736 participants, the risk perception of 217 screening-detected participants was compared with 4435 with a low-risk profile for undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes. Results: Of 7736 participants, 43.5% could not give an estimate of their risk of having diabetes, 31.2% estimated their risk to be 0% and 25.3% estimated their risk to be 10% or higher. Compared with 4435 participants with an objectively low risk profile, 217 screening-detected participants were more likely to answer 'I do not know' (52.4% vs. 40.1%, P < 0.001), perceived their risk less often to be 0% (19.3% vs. 34.7%, P < 0.001), and slightly more often perceived their risk to be 10% or higher (28.3% vs. 25.2%, P < 0.001). Overall, more than half of the total population, including both participants with a low risk profile and the screening-detected participants, perceived diabetes as a (very) serious disease. Higher age, obesity and taking anti-hypertensive drugs did not translate into a higher perceived risk. Conclusions: Among screening-detected participants the seriousness of Type 2 diabetes was generally acknowledged, whilst the perceived risk of having Type 2 diabetes was low, despite the presence of risk factors.