Study Reveals Dogs Can Smell Cancer in Patients' Breath

January 18, 2006
Girl with a white dog
Freud, Lucian (1922- ). German-born British painter. Girl with a white dog 1951-52; Oil on canvas, Tate Gallery, London

A new study reported by the National Geographic has revealed that dogs can detect cancer by smelling a patient’s breath. Domestic dogs can distinguish between infected lung and breast cancer patients and healthy subjects after just a few weeks training. The study was conducted by Pine Street Foundation, a California based cancer research organization.

Michael McCulloch, the lead researcher of the study team said, "Our study provides compelling evidence that cancers hidden beneath the skin can be detected simply by [dogs] examining the odors of a person's breath," When diagnosed early, a cancer patient's survival chances can be greatly improved. The new study has increased hopes for cancer patients.

Dogs have the ability to detect chemical traces at a range of parts per million. Separate studies conducted by other researchers have found that trained dogs can detect skin-cancer melanomas by sniffing skin lesions. Further research is on the way to prove that trained dogs can also screen for prostrate cancer by sniffing urine.

Nicholas Broffman, director of the Pine Street Foundation said, "Canine scent detection of cancer was anecdotally discussed for decades, but we felt it was appropriate to design a rigorous study that seriously investigated this topic to better evaluate its effectiveness,"

Lung and breast cancer patients exhale patterns of biochemical markers in their breath. "Cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells," Broffman continued, "The differences between these metabolic products are so great that they can be detected by a dog's keen sense of smell, even in the early stages of disease."

The researchers trained five dogs. After inhaling breath samples from 83 people, the dogs identified 55 lung and 31 breast cancer patients. The dogs gave a positive reply by sitting or lying down in front of a test station. The research study was between 88 and 97 percent accurate. The results remained accurate even when considering whether the lung cancer patients were current smokers.

Canines' sense of smell is generally 10,000 to 100,000 times superior to that of humans. Although it is not clear what makes dogs good smellers, they have a greater convergence of neurons from the nose to the brain than humans do. Moreover, the dog brain is more devoted to the sense of smell than the human brain is.

Dogs may become an indespensible part of the early cancer screening process.

Copyright 2006 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Promising new drug development could treat cachexia

Related Stories

Promising new drug development could treat cachexia

April 18, 2017

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly one-third of cancer deaths can be attributed to a wasting syndrome known as cachexia. Cachexia, an indicator of the advanced stages of disease, is a debilitating disorder ...

Bacteriophages, natural drugs to combat superbugs

April 18, 2017

Viruses that specifically kill bacteria, called bacteriophages, might one day help solve the growing problem of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatment. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and ...

Dogs detect breast cancer from bandage: researchers

March 24, 2017

Dogs can sniff out cancer from a piece of cloth which had touched the breast of a woman with a tumour, researchers said Friday, announcing the results of an unusual, but promising, diagnostic trial.

Deworming pill may be effective in treating liver cancer

March 30, 2017

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a cancer associated with underlying liver disease and cirrhosis that often only becomes symptomatic when it is very advanced, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths around the world, ...

The life-saving treatment that's being thrown in the trash

March 28, 2017

A few hours before beginning chemotherapy, a man named Chris faces his cellphone camera with a mischievous smile and describes a perfectly absurd milestone at 1.37pm on a Wednesday. "There is no more beautiful moment in a ...

Recommended for you

Swarm explores a new feature of the northern lights

April 21, 2017

Thanks to social media and the power of citizen scientists chasing the northern lights, a new feature was discovered recently. Nobody knew what this strange ribbon of purple light was, so … it was called Steve.

Detecting life in the ultra-dry Atacama Desert

April 21, 2017

Few places are as hostile to life as Chile's Atacama Desert. It's the driest non-polar desert on Earth, and only the hardiest microbes survive there. Its rocky landscape has lain undisturbed for eons, exposed to extreme temperatures ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.