January 8, 2006

Dogs Sniffing Cancer

Many of you may remember the 60 Minutes segment from last January in which they showed dogs detecting cancer by smelling urine samples:

One dog failed completely, but two picked out the cancerous sample 60 percent of the time. The overall average was 41 percent success. That percentage may seem small, but Willis says it amounts to a major success for the dogs.

"The 41 percent, as far as I'm concerned, was a remarkable result," says Willis. "And it was highly statistically significant."
Well if that was remarkable then a new class of adjective is needed to talk about the results of this study:
In this study, five household dogs were trained within a short 3-week period to detect lung or breast cancer by sniffing the breath of cancer participants.
The results of the study showed that dogs can detect breast and lung cancer with sensitivity and specificity between 88% and 97%. The high accuracy persisted even after results were adjusted to take into account whether the lung cancer patients were currently smokers. Moreover, the study also confirmed that the trained dogs could even detect the early stages of lung cancer, as well as early breast cancer. The researchers concluded that breath analysis has the potential to provide a substantial reduction in the uncertainty currently seen in cancer diagnosis, once further work has been carried out to standardize and expand this methodology.
How soon will every household have a dog trained to do this?

Posted by Steve on January 8, 2006
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