With their ability to detect scents far above what humans can, dogs have been used to sniff out bombs, drugs and even survivors in calamities. Now, Japanese scientists are adding cancer to that list.
In a study conducted at Kyushu University, a team of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Hideto Sonoda of the Department of Surgery discovered that dogs are able to detect colorectal cancer among patients with a success rate of 98 percent as compared to the conventional fecal occult blood screening, which is a simple, non-invasive test done to determine if a patient has colon cancer.
Marine, an eight-year-old female Labrador Retriever, was given stool and breath samples taken from 320 healthy people and 40 individuals who have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Based on the results of the study, the researchers determined that the dog's accuracy to evaluate the breath samples was at 95% while her accuracy to evaluate stool samples was at 98%.
Positive findings have also been determined when the dog was introduced breath and stool samples of patients suffering from breast, stomach and prostate cancer.
"This study represents the first step towards the development of an early detection system," Dr. Sonoda said.
The findings of the study has been published in the Gut Research Journal, according to BBC News.
Although the results of the study may be promising, many health care professionals pointed out that such method of screening will not happen anytime soon.
"Much more research will be needed before we can seriously think about dogs assuming roles in cancer screening similar to their current ones in law enforcement," Dr. Ted Gansler—Director of Medical Content at the American Cancer Society—told BusinessWeek.
Rebecca Johnson, associate professor at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, adds: "Training dogs is [expensive]. It wouldn't [also] be diagnostic though. [Instead,] it could be [used as a] screening test used in combination with other tools."