This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do You Think You Have Lung Cancer? Ask Your Dog

My wife and I have had German Shepherds for more than twenty years and we have always been impressed not just by how smart they are, but by the fact that they (like a lot of other animals) "see" things in the world that we can't. BBC News reports this week on an experiment at a hospital in Germany showing that dogs have a remarkable ability to diagnose lung cancer in a person by smelling their breath.

It is thought that tumours produce "volatile chemicals" which a dog can detect.
Researchers trained four dogs - two German shepherds, an Australian shepherd and a Labrador - to detect lung cancer.
Three groups of patients were tested: 110 healthy people, 60 with lung cancer and 50 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a narrowing of the airways of the lungs.They all breathed into a fleece filled tube, which absorbed any smells.
The dogs sniffed the tubes and sat down in front of those in which they detected lung cancer smells.
They were successful 71% of the time. The researchers showed the dogs were not getting confused by chemicals associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or smoking.
Dr Thorsten Walles, the report's author from Schillerhoehe Hospital, said: "In the breath of patients with lung cancer, there are likely to be different chemicals to normal breath samples and the dogs' keen sense of smell can detect this difference at an early stage of the disease.
"Our results confirm the presence of a stable marker for lung cancer. This is a big step forward."

Will this lead to new employment opportunities for dogs? Probably not, but it is nice when animals can help us improve our health without having to be harmed in the process.

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