We rely on our dogs for so much—love, affection, comic relief. Man’s best friend is also known for his listening (without interrupting!) ability and offering comfort when we need it most. So perhaps it’s no surprise that pooches are excelling at doing another thing to help humans: sniffing out prostate cancer.
An Italy-based team of researchers had two female German shepherds sniff urine samples from 900 men—360 with prostate cancer, and 540 without. Both pooches were over 90% accurate in identifying which samples were cancerous and which were not.
Why It’s A Big Deal
Currently, prostate cancer is detected in three different ways: a blood test known as the PSA test, by physical examination and by biopsy. The PSA test is not routinely offered because it is not considered reliable enough. Claire Guest, the co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs, calls the new study results “spectacular.” Since tests are for the disease are so unreliable, it’s a huge deal that man’s best friend can sniff it out.
Right now it’s not clear exactly what the dogs smell that alerts them to cancer. It could be a single scent, or a mixture of several chemical scents that tip them off. Either way, it’s a very valuable skill. Guest adds, “The detection dogs provide an alternative solution that yields consistently accurate results. If our detection were a machine, there would be huge demand for them."