For hundreds of years, dogs have been used on the hunt to track animals. Now, they have an amazing new prey.
Humans have known about dogs’ incredible sense of smell for thousands of years. But scientists have discovered that dogs are able to smell… cancer!
Trained dogs can now detect bowel cancer, and they’re very good at it. Cancer tumors secrete certain compounds that the dogs can smell, even if the cancer is in early stages. Specially trained dogs sniff people’s breath, and they can tell the difference between someone with cancer and someone who is cancer-free. Researchers reported these incredible findings in the journal Gut, a publication of the British Medical Journal, in January 2011.
Other special dogs can sniff out skin, lung, bladder, breast and ovarian cancers. In recent studies conducted in Japan, one trained Labrador retriever was correct nine times out of ten. Another dog could accurately detect cancer patients with varied smoking habits or benign diseases. The dog in that study was correct 99 percent of the time!
Since accuracy was high even when the cancer was in early stages, these findings might lead to earlier detection of cancer in human companions, with little cost, researchers predict.
Can you imagine if within just a few years we can have dogs regularly detecting cancer?!! Well, it can become reality! In what other ways can a dog use their phenomenal sense of smell to contribute to society? Share your thoughts and ideas of how they can be of help in the comments below.