Research suggests that trained German shepherd dogs can sniff out chemical linked to prostate cancer from urine samples with remarkable accuracy.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of disease in British men, with 40,000 new cases reported every year.
An Italy-based team led the study and reported the results in the Journal of Urology.
This study was the latest of several studies dating back decades and raises the prospect of canines’ sense of smell helping doctors identify a number of human cancers and infectious disease.
The study found that two female dogs sniffed urine samples from 900 men, 360 cancer and 540 without. Both animals were right in over 90% of cases.
Currently, prostate cancer is detected by a blood test known as the PSA test, by physical examination and biopsy. The PSA test is not routinely offered because it is not considered reliable enough for screening.
The detection dogs provide an alternative solution that yield consistently accurate results. If the dogs were a machine, they would be in very high demand.
Researchers are excited about these findings because the existing tests are woefully inadequate and these detection dogs have such a high success rate.
Over the years the British government has invested millions of pounds into the traditional test methods, and yet there has been little improvement in their reliability. This has cause a huge waste of resources in addition to distress to individuals.
The team does admit that further work is necessary in order to determine the exact value of dogs’ skill might be in identifying the signs of prostate cancer.
Unanswered questions included what it was the dogs actually smelled and whether this was a single odor or those from a mixture of chemicals.