Study: Trained Dogs Able To Detect Lung Cancer

Written by Keith Roberts on Aug. 19, 2011

According to a new study, dogs may be able to detect cancer by the smell of a person’s breath. Two German shepherds, a Labrador retriever, and an Australian shepherd were used in a study where they each smelled test tubes containing breath samples from 220 patients, who may or may not been in the early stages of lung cancer.

The researchers collected breath samples from 110 people that were healthy, 60 with lung cancer, and 50 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The dogs were able to smell the presence of lung cancer after nine months of training and were able to correctly detect 71% of the samples. They also had a low rate of false positives, being able to identify that 93% of the samples that didn’t contain cancer. According to Time, the 71% rate is better than some of the imaging tests that doctors currently use to detect lung cancer.

“In the breath of patients with lung cancer, there are likely to be different chemicals to normal breath samples and the dogs’ keen sense of smell can detect this difference at an early stage of the disease,” Thorsten Walles, the lead researcher in the study, said.

Lung cancer, mostly linked to smokers, is the third most common cancer in the United States behind prostate and breast cancer. The cancer is very hard to detect in its early stages and scientists have been working on alternate methods of early prevention, and many feel this may be a breakthrough.

The research was conducted by Schillerhohe Hospital in Germany and published in the European Respiratory Journal on August 18.