Can Dogs Sniff Out Cancer?
Your Best Friend May Save your Life
We already know that they can lead the blind, provide emotional support, and help the police
crack tough cases. Yet man's best friend may be even more of an ally than we previously
thought. A breakthrough study in 2011 confirmed what many scientists already believed: that
dogs may be capable of smelling cancer.
A Study with Life-Saving Results
This research involved four specially trained dogs who were able to sniff out cancer in 71 out
of 100 breath samples from lung cancer patients. They were also able to identify an
impressive 91% of cancer-free samples, showing that they can smell the difference between
cancerous and non-cancerous cells. These results are extremely interesting, because the dogs'
accuracy rate was higher than the tests that doctors are currently using to detect lung cancer
in patients! These highly trained dogs are known as bio-detection dogs, and they may hold
the key to helping fight cancer. Using a reward-based training program and cell samples from
local hospitals, dogs are taught to identify the difference between cancerous and non-
There has been a high interest in the medical community regarding bio-detection dogs. There
was recently another story in the headlines about a British pensioner named Maureen Burns,
who was alerted to a tumour that doctors hadn't yet discovered by her dog, Max. Max would
jump up out of his
to sniff her breath and nudge or bark at her right breast
repeatedly, which turned out to be the location of the cancerous tumour. After this story hit
the papers, many other individuals came forward with similar stories, which have led to an
increase of medical research. A 2004 British study found that dogs could effectively identify
bladder cancer in urine, while a 2011 study in Japan proved that they could sniff out colon
cancer to an impressive 98% rate of accuracy.
A similar study was recently undertaken in Israel, to investigate this issue further. This
research discovered that dogs can not only smell cancer on the breath of patients, but that
they can smell specific cancer cells outside of the body. This study also concluded that
different kinds of cancer share the same type of smell, as the dogs reacted in the same way to
breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma. Although the exact compounds that create this
distinctive smell have not yet been isolated, further research hopes to uncover what it is to
train more dogs for diagnostic purposes.
What Else Can Dogs Smell?
Dogs have an amazing sense of smell, up to 100,000 times better than ours. This sense is put
to good use beyond the medical world, and is often used in law enforcement. Dogs are trained
to sniff out pirated DVD's in Malaysia and smuggled cell phones within American prisons,
along with their use at borders to smell drugs. They can also be used to help eradicated
bedbugs by smelling out these common pests in apartment buildings and other areas of
These amazing creatures are wonderful companions, but these studies show that they can also
be true lifesavers. It's worth treating them right with a new set of accessories from
in gratitude! Although more research is needed to isolate the compounds in
cancerous cells that they are reacting to, in the future they may provide a less invasive, more
accurate, and altogether cuddlier alternative to today's cancer screenings.