Healthy living

Dogs can sniff out early bowel cancer

dogs Accurate in nine out of ten cases

Dogs can accurately sniff out bowel cancer in the early stages of disease, new research has found.

A specially trained labrador retriever was able to detect early stage bowel cancer in over nine out of ten breath and stool samples from bowel cancer patients.

The findings suggest that dogs can sniff out chemical compounds specific to individual cancers which circulate throughout the body. The researchers, from Kyushu University in Japan, say the findings could pave the way for a new test to detect bowel cancer before the disease has spread.

Currently, men and women between the ages of 60 to 74 are eligible for bowel cancer screening using the faecal occult blood test, which can detect tiny amounts of blood in stool samples. But the researchers say the test is only able to pick up early stage disease in one in 10 cases of bowel cancer.

In the study, the labrador correctly identified early stage bowel cancer in 33 out of 36 breath tests and in 37 out of 38 stool tests, equivalent to a success rate of 95 per cent for the breath test and 98 per cent for the stool test.

Samples from people who smoked or with other types of gut problems which might be expected to mask or interfere with other smells did not confuse the dog.

Writing in the journal Gut, the researchers admitted that using dogs to screen for cancers would be likely to be impractical and expensive, but said that a sensor could be developed to detect the specific chemical compounds picked up by the dog.

They also point out that other research and anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs can sniff out bladder, skin, lung, breast and ovarian cancers.

This article was published on Tue 1 February 2011

Image © Fotolia

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