Biomedical Research

Can Canines Use Their Sense of Smell to Identify Cancer?

A new study has shown that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy.

Although cancer is a widespread disease that is vigorously studied and researched, we as humans have not yet developed a cure. Most health officials agree that the best way to stop cancer in a patient would be to try and stop it early on. While detecting cancer early might sound like an easy task it can be difficult. Whether it be the steep price or the sparse locations screenings and tests can be hard. But researchers across the globe have been striving for a better solution. [1]One study by researchers at BioScentDx shows that Dogs can accurately detect early-onset cancer through smell. The researchers used a form of clicker training to teach for dogs to distinguish between normal blood serum and samples from patients with malignant lung cancer. After many trials and tests, the researchers concluded that the dogs had a 96.7 percent accuracy of identifying the lung cancer samples and a 97.5 percent accuracy of identifying the normal samples. 

But how do the dogs do this? Researchers from many universities, including Stanford Med and BioScentDx, say it is from the very sensitive smell receptors that K9’s have. Dogs have 10,000 times more sensitive smell receptors than humans which would allow them to smell and identify various more biologic compounds such as cancers. Other researches have said that dogs are able to smell cancer due to the olfactory ability that they have. This allows them to detect very low concentrations of alkanes and aromatic compounds generated by malignant tumors through urine or in the breath of humans. The very thought that dogs could detect cancer dated back to 1989 when it was published in The Lancet Medical Journal

If the research is deemed accurate by secondary trials and dogs are able to detect cancer, it could be very exciting for the medical community and for cancer research. The company BioScentDx has said that it would pave the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools. One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the reach of K9’s senses. The company plans to use canine sent detection to develop a non-invasive way of screening for cancer that would be less expensive as well as more accessible.

Overall, the use of cancer sniffing dogs in the medical and health science fields could be a huge discovery for the livelihood of many patients. If we already had the K9’s in action we could estimate that nearly ⅛ of all the people with cancer would have been screened earlier, stated the Center for Disease Control, which potentially could have saved hundred of thousands of lives. In the near future, many companies are planning on further testing canines to sniff cancer and other diseases too. And if it works, dogs could change the world for the betterment of society.


Price, B. (2020). Canine’s sense of smell. Retrieved 2020, from

Mosbergen, D. (2015, September 07). ‘Groundbreaking’ Trial Will Test Cancer-Sniffing Dogs. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from

Geographic, N. (2018). Dogs in Health Care. Retrieved 2020, from

Today, U. (2019). Cancer Sniffing Animals. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from


By Bannon Price

Hi everybody. My name is Bannon Price and I am a sophomore at Ashdown High School in Arkansas. I am a state officer for SkillsUSA, and avid reader, adventurer, and hiker. I am fascinated by neuroscience and hope to pursue a career in the field one day. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s