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Simple breath test to diagnose cancer

Simple breath test to diagnose cancer Early detection of common cancers would save lives

Scientists are developing a breath test that could revolutionise how the most common cancers are detected.

The test uses sensors which can distinguish between the breath of healthy patients and those that have cancer.

The sensors work by detecting chemicals which are emitted by the surface of cancerous cells.

Remarkably, the sensors can also discern the type of cancer - including lung, breast, bowel or prostate cancer. These are the most common cancers in the UK, and often go undetected until they are in an advanced stage.

Professor Abraham Kuten, co-author of the study at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, said: “This study shows that an “electronic nose” can distinguish between healthy and malignant breath, and can also differentiate between the breath of patients with different cancer types.

“If we can confirm these initial results in large-scale studies, this new technology could become a simple tool for early diagnosis of cancer along with imaging.

“It could also be an easy way to assess and monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment and detect relapses earlier.”

Commenting on the study, Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “It is important to say at the outset that this is a small study at a very early stage and much more research is needed to see if breath can be used in the detection of cancer."

The study was published today in the British Journal of Cancer.

This article was published on Wed 11 August 2010

Image © Alexander Raths - Fotolia.com

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