Dogs can detect colon cancer by sniffing people's breath or stools, scientists say.
The findings were published in the medical journal Gut, the New Zealand Science Media Centre reports.
Japanese scientists discovered a labrador retriever could detect a chemical produced by cancer cells just by smelling people's breath - even in the early stages of the disease.
When smelling breath samples the dog's success rate was about 95 percent and that figure climbed to 98 percent when smelling stool samples.
The study's findings did not come as a surprise to Otago University's Randall Allardyce, a senior lecturer specialising in colon cancer, who said scientists were already aware of the potential for animals to detect genetic changes in other animals.
However, the latest research pointed towards a future bowel cancer screening test that could be more sensitive and specific, Dr Allardyce told NZPA.
Australian professor Graeme Young, a gastroenterologist and specialist in colon cancer, said the research raised the possibility of developing a breath test to diagnose other cancers as well.
"Dogs have an incredibly acute sense of smell and can be trained to detect these chemicals in the breath of cancer patients with a remarkable degree of accuracy," he said.
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