A device that can detect if one has cancer or not through his or her breath alone can now also detect the type of cancer the patient has, according to scientists who developed the breath test.

Preliminary results of the trial of the breath test device on 177 volunteers showed it can identify if a patient had lung, breast, bowel or prostate cancer.

The study on the breath test device conducted at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel was published in the British Journal of Cancer. Technion's Professor Abraham Kuten co-authored the study.

The device is a sensor that uses gold nanoparticles to detect chemicals emitted by cells in people with growing cancer. The chemicals are present in the breath.

The sensor could be helpful in the early detection of cancer or before a tumour becomes visible in X-rays.

If we can confirm these initial results in large-scale studies, this new technology could become a simple tool for early diagnosis of cancer along with imaging. It could also be an easy way to assess and monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment and detect relapses earlier, Kuten was quoted as saying by Theaustralian.com.