Using dogs to sniff out cancer is a growing field of research, and a recent study quantified just how good trained canines can be at detecting the disease.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

It turns out that when it comes to sensing prostate cancer in urine samples, the dogs were correct 98 percent of the time.

The results presented at the American Urological Association in Florida this week open the door for what the lead author, Dr. Gianluigi Taverna from the Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, told Reuters is a “reproducible, low cost and non-invasive” test.

“Using dogs to recognize prostate cancer might help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and better pinpoint patients at high risk for the disease,” he added.

While humans have about 5 million olfactory cells that allow them to pick up various scents, dogs have about 200 million such cells.

The study used 677 participants who either had prostate cancer or who were otherwise healthy except for a non-tumor-causing disease or were without prostatic tumors.

Two trained dogs conducted the sniff tests, one dog being 99 percent accurate, the other 97 percent accurate.

“These data show analysis of volatile organic compounds in urine is a promising approach to cancer detection,” Dr. Brian Stork, a urologist with West Shore Urology in Muskegon, Michigan, said in a statement. “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.”

In other prostate cancer news, research from Cancer Research UK found that this type of cancer could be added to the list of those caused by sexually transmitted diseases, though it’s still to early to know for sure. In the study, the infection known as trichomoniasis was linked to growth of prostate cancer, but researchers have yet to confirm the association.

“This study suggests a possible way the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis could encourage prostate cancer cells to grow and develop more quickly,” Nicola Smith, a health information officer at Cancer Research UK, told BBC. ”But the research was only done in the lab, and previous evidence in patients failed to show a clear link between prostate cancer and this common sexually transmitted infection. There’s been a lot of research into prostate cancer risk and we’re working hard to piece together the puzzle.”

Front page image via Shutterstock.