KEY POINTS

  • President Joe Biden said "dogs may help cure cancer" during a visit to James Cancer Hospital Tuesday
  • He also said dogs are able to "smell cancer" in human's bodies
  • Past studies have shown that dogs can be trained to detect cancer in human bodies, breath, sweat and waste

President Joe Biden sparked some social media debates recently after saying dogs may be able to help cure cancer and can smell the disease in human bodies. Based on previous studies, there may be some truth to this.

On Tuesday, Biden visited Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital to discuss his American Rescue Plan and mark the 11-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

While discussing proposals to make cancer care more affordable and accessible, Biden, who owns two German Shepherds Champ and Major, said, "By the way, dogs may help cure cancer. It's not a joke. Their olfactory glands are 400 times what a human is ... to smell cancer in people's legs, in people's bodies. It's not a joke. It's a fascinating thing."

This statement caused some raised eyebrows over at Twitter.

"Remember when every[one] took trump as serious as can be when he said injecting bleach can cure covid," one Twitter user wrote. "let’s all have that same energy toward Biden saying dogs may help cure cancer….some studies suggest they can detect blood cancer in legs, but that is farrrrrrr from curing joe."

Another user pointed out the difference in treatment between Biden and his predecessor, tweeting, "Trump: light rays may cure viruses. Media: 25th Amendment, he’s gone mad. Biden: dogs can cure cancer. Media: Fact check TRUE! Hero!"

Some said Biden is not entirely wrong. "They've been training dogs to smell cancer in people...for years. Read a book," one person wrote.

One Twitter user even had firsthand experience with dogs' ability to detect cancer. "There's some truth to this," they wrote. "I had a dog start licking my ear repeatedly and some months later turned out I had a small precancerous growth inside. Dog was trying to 'heal' me."

The big question is: can dogs actually "cure" cancer? The answer is no.

However, as Biden said, studies have said that dogs are able to sniff out cancer in human bodies, breath, sweat and waste. Dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans, making their sense of smell up to 100,000 times sharper, PBS reported.

Studies have shown that dogs can be trained to detect lung cancer from a person’s breath and colorectal cancer from watery stool, Medical News Today noted. They can also sniff out ovarian cancer from blood samples and prostate cancer from urine.

Aside from these, dogs can help in research aiming to find a cure for the disease. Due to the similarity of some of humans' and dogs' cancers, some treatments have been found to work on dogs just like they do on humans, and vice versa, according to the Cancer Research Institute. This means a cure for cancer for either humans or dogs could potentially work for both.

Man's best friend also continues to play a significant role in cancer treatment as therapy dogs, per WebMD. According to research, spending time with a therapy dog lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as possibly help lessen pain.

US President Joe Biden at the first news conference of his presidency US President Joe Biden at the first news conference of his presidency Photo: GETTY IMAGES / CHIP SOMODEVILLA