Type 2 diabetes is a serious and common chronic disease resulting from a complex inheritance-environment interaction along with other risk factors such as obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes and its complications constitute a major worldwide public health problem, affecting almost all populations in both developed and developing countries with high rates of diabetes-related morbidity and mortality. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has been increasing exponentially, and a high prevalence rate has been observed in developing countries and in populations undergoing "westernization" or modernization. Multiple risk factors of diabetes, delayed diagnosis until micro- and macro-vascular complications arise, life-threatening complications, failure of the current therapies, and financial costs for the treatment of this disease, make it necessary to develop new efficient therapy strategies and appropriate prevention measures for the control of type 2 diabetes. Herein, we summarize our current understanding about the epidemiology of type 2 diabetes, the roles of genes, lifestyle and other factors contributing to rapid increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes. The core aims are to bring forward the new therapy strategies and cost-effective intervention trials of type 2 diabetes.