Cancer Detecting Dogs

Dublin in the Snow 2

While you might know that scientists have discovered that dogs can detect cancer with their nose, you probably didn’t know that the dog who got the entire school of thought going was a Border Collie mix.

Some dogs seem to have the capacity to sniff out the presence of cancer in humans. This startling discovery was first reported in the prestigious medical journal Lancet, in April 1989, by Doctors Hywel Williams and Andres Pembroke. 

A female patient sought advice about a mole on her thigh. Her concern was aroused by her dog, a cross between a Border Collie and a Doberman, who often spent several minutes sniffing at a particular mole, even though her pants (the dog paid no attention to any other moles on her body). She decided to see the doctors after the dog tried to bite off the mole while she was wearing shorts. 

Analysis showed that the mole was actually a malignant melanoma. Williams and Pembroke noted, “The dog may have saved her owner’s life by forcing her to seek medical advice while the mole was still at a thin (noninvasive) stage.” They guessed that the dog’s sense of smell was the true life-saver here and that malignant tumors, “with their aberrant protein synthesis, emit unique odors, which though undetectable to man, are easily detected by dogs.”

How Dogs Think, Stanley Coren

Subsequent studies have shown that dogs are able to detect early stage lung, breast, bladder, prostate, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. Some of the studies have used biopsied tissue, but others have shown great efficacy identifying cancers in exhaled breath and urine. 

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.