Dogs' Smell is Early Detection for Prostate Cancer, Study Finds

Monday, 19 May 2014 01:36 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A dog's sense of smell is perhaps one of the best early detectors of prostate cancer, according to a recently conducted study by Italian researchers who found that canines could sense the disease with up to 99 percent accuracy.

Led by Gianluigi Taverna of Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, the study involved urine samples from 677 men — 320 men with prostate cancer and 357 without it — and two dogs that were specially trained to detect volatile organic compounds through their remarkable gift of smell, NBC News reported.

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The men with prostate cancer reportedly ranged in severity with some having wide-spread cancer throughout their bodies while others had slow-growing, low-risk tumors.

The findings, which were presented Sunday at the 109th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando, Florida, were remarkable. One of the two dogs detected cancer with 99 percent accuracy while the other had 97 percent accuracy identifying only a handful of false positives, Reuters reported.

"These data show analysis of volatile organic compounds in urine is a promising approach to cancer detection," Dr. Brian Stork of West Shore Urology in Muskegon, Michigan, who was not involved in the study, told reporters Sunday. "The possibility of using dogs identifying cancer is something most would never have considered possible a decade or two ago. It's an interesting concept that 'man's best friend' could help save your life."

Researchers first demonstrated a dog's ability to sniff out prostate cancer in 2010 in a separate study that only involved some 33 patients, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The most recent study is the largest to reexamine the initial findings to date.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men, with more than 230,000 men in the United States being diagnosed every year and an anticipated 29,000 men expected to die from the disease in 2014.

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