First reported case of canine cancer detection
1989 sniffer dog
/ first
United Kingdom ()

On 1 April 1989, trainee dermatologist Hywel Williams and Andres Pembroke published a letter in medical journal The Lancet detailing the case of a dog whose continual interest in a mole on his owner's leg led her to seek medical advice; it transpired to be a malignant melanoma. This is the first official report of a dog using its powerful sense of smell to have potentially identified cancer, resulting in its early treatment.

Williams published the letter in The Lancet while completing training as a dermatologist at King's College Hospital in London, UK. He is currently Professor of Dermato-Epidemiology & Co-Director of the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham.

It's now widely accepted that dogs' outstanding olfactory abilities - they have some 220 million scent receptors, vs 5 million in human noses - enable them to detect a wide range of diseases and conditions including cancer, Parkinson's and narcolepsy. Research also indicates that they are able to detect low blood sugar in diabetics and oncoming migraines.