Labrador Retrievers Detect Bowel Cancer

Labs, in this case, does not refer to a shortened version of the word, laboratory, but rather to those popular, darling dogs who according to a recent study, can detect the early stages of bowel cancer with more than 90% accuracy.

For some reason, certain dogs, such as Labradors and Portuguese water dogs, are more able to sniff out bladder, skin, lung, breast and ovarian cancers than others.

The latest Japanese study, the results of which were published in the January 31 online edition of the journal Gut, found that over a period of several months and a total of 74 sniff tests, the Labrador’s ability to detect cancer in breath samples was 95% accurate and 98% accurate for stool samples.

The goal of this project was to discover whether odor could become an effective tool in colorectal cancer screening.

According to the study:

“The accuracy was high even for early cancer… The results of all tests were correct, thereby suggesting that a specific cancer scent indeed exists… These odor materials may become effective tools in screening.”

The hopeful future of this research conducted at Japan’s Kyushu University and headed by Dr. Hideto Sonoda, is the possibility of a new electronic sensor, which incorporates the cancer-specific compounds that are so accurately detected by dogs.

Researchers utilized a specially trained 8-year-old female Labrador retriever named Marine for this special project. Although initially trained for water rescue, this amazing dog was able to detect 12 types of cancer in patients’ breath samples before she even joined the colorectal cancer study!

The tests, which included samples of stool and exhaled breath from 40 cancer patients and 320 healthy people, were conducted from November to June, because according to Sonoda, the dog’s concentration tends to decrease during the summer season.

In 33 of 36 breath tests and in 37 of 38 stool trials, Marine was able to distinguish cancerous samples from non-cancerous samples. The tests were repeated three times and got the same results.

The researchers also took breath and stool samples from patients with breast, stomach and prostate cancer. Sonoda claimed:

“Canine scent judgment yielded correct answers for these cancers as well, suggesting that common scents may exist among various cancer types.”

The ability is amazing but still very variable as much depends on the dog’s ability to concentrate, which may vacillate from day to day. This makes canine scent judgment a very exciting prospect that needs more development before it can be considered an accurate clinical tool.

The answer seems to lie in identifying the cancer-specific organic compounds the dog so clearly recognizes and developing a sensor that can also detect them accurately.

Still, no matter how you look at this:

Woof woof, hooray!

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