The incredible sensitivity of a dog's sense of smell has long been known, but Japanese researchers recently discovered that it may actually be acute enough to detect colon cancer.
Dogs have been trained to detect cancer of many types, and some research exists to suggest they are capable of identifying cancer sufferers from samples of stool and even breath.
The Japanese scientists used a specially trained eight-year-old black Labrador for the tests, and the dog was able to pick out the cancerous stool sample from among the controls provided with better than 95 percent accuracy.
Importantly, an NPR report on the study noted, the dog could detect early stage cancers just as well as advanced tumors, and the research scrupulously avoided the so-called Clever Hans problem - a reference to a case in which a horse which could apparently perform basic math was actually being unconsciously cued by its handler.
Despite the difficulties inherent in implementing a system of cancer-sniffing dogs, the study and others like it may still hold the key to advanced detection mechanisms for the disease.
Experts say that catching tumors early is critical in ensuring survival and prolonging life expectancy.