Everyone knows dogs are better sniffers than humans. But until now, no one knew just how accurately dogs could detect the presence of prostate cancer in urine samples. Previous research on other types of cancer has indicated that tumors apparently release chemicals with distinct odors that can be detected by dogs.
In this case, French researchers trained a Belgian Malinois and then put it to work 66 different times to determine if it could detect the presence of cancer in one of six separate urine samples.
The dog selected the correct sample 63 out of 66 times. And, one of the three men who provided a “non-cancerous” sample that was selected by the dog was found to have prostate cancer after being retested.
The researchers considered these findings to be remarkable, but further testing must be done. The study does, at a minimum, reinforce the widely held notion that certain chemicals do allow for cancer detection. Cancer researchers agree that identifying these chemicals could be tremendously beneficial to identifying and treating patients with prostate cancer. If this can be done, scientists may be able to develop an “electronic nose” that could detect the presence of these chemicals instead of dogs. Utilizing dogs in medical settings is considered to be impractical and cost prohibitive. In fact U.S. News & World Report says it would cost as much as hiring two full-time scientists.
The above study performed by French researchers has yet to be peer-reviewed or appear in a medical journal. And some have questioned the dog’s ability to be more than 95 percent accurate in the study, due to subconscious signals from researchers, for example. However, the Belgian Malinois and other canines used to detect cancer appear to be significantly more accurate than current procedures for determining the presence of cancer.
Elevated levels of PSA are now a determining factor in whether or not prostate cancer may be present. High levels of PSA indicate that further testing needs to be done. However, fewer than one-third of the men who provide biopsies due to high PSA actually have cancer. The medical community agrees that more accurate prostate cancer tests are sorely needed, and the dogs may just be on to something.
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