Best friend indeed: New British research on the cancer-sniffing ability of canines suggests yet another reason why dogs are aptly nicknamed “man’s best friend.”
According to John Kirkwood, a professor of medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine and director of the Melanoma Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the most plausible explanation for how a dog detects melanoma—the most severe type of skin cancer, which kills 8,000 people a year in the United States—“is that up to a quarter of melanomas may have a break in the skin with traces of bleeding,” he said in an Oct. 26 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.
A more complex explanation could be that dogs can sense molecular markers of certain skin cancers—recognized by the human immune system as antigens. A dog’s “sense of olfaction may be in a sense akin to the immunological ability to recognize different things on the basis of molecular constituents,” Kirkwood was quoted as saying.[/B]