Breath May Help Detect Cancer


Breath samples may ultimately help detect early gastric (stomach) cancer, and even precancerous conditions of the stomach. These results were recently published in the journal Gut.

Exhaled breath can have within it certain molecules that are indicative of cancer, or precancerous conditions. The modality of using exhaled breath as a screening measure for cancer has been undergoing testing for several years. Researchers continue to explore ways in which to provide the most accurate measures for its use in this capacity.

A clinical study was recently conducted using 968 breath samples collected from 484 patients. Different types of analyses and validation systems were used to determine accuracy of the breath samples for detection of gastric cancer and precancerous gastric conditions.

Detection of 8 specific molecules (referred to as volatile organic compounds) in exhaled breath resulted in a 92% accuracy rate in distinguishing between the presence of gastric cancer in patients diagnosed with the disease versus healthy individuals.
Distinguishing between precancerous conditions, as well as the different stages of gastric cancer was also achieved in over 80% of breath samples.
The researchers concluded that the laboratory analyses of breath samples “could provide the missing non-invasive screening tool for [gastric cancer] and related precancerous lesions as well as for surveillance of the latter.”

Reference: Ama H, Leja M, Funka K, et al. Detection of precancerous gastric lesions and gastric cancer through exhaled breath. Gut. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-308536. Available at: