Use dolphins to detect cancer? No.

This is a magical, hopeful idea of dolphins as extraordinary, advanced creatures but it’s fantasy.

Do Dolphins Have the Ability to Detect Human Cancer? : Living Green Magazine.

Can dolphins detect cancer in people? To some scientists, it’s not even a legitimate hypothesis; and to many animal-rights activists, “swim-with-the-dolphin” cancer diagnostic centers would be no less objectionable than any other form of captivity.

The post goes on to give examples of what appear to be cases of extraordinary dolphin “knowledge”

“A woman swimming with Dreamer thought she had been rammed,” Hyson writes. “The woman was taken to hospital for examination. The woman had a large bruise. X-ray revealed that under the ribs, near the center of the bruised area, there was a small tumor. It is my feeling that Dreamer likely ‘zapped’ the tumor with a powerful sound pulse, perhaps to heal it, and the high intensity sound left bruising from hydrostatic shock. At the least, the bruising called medical attention to the tumor.”

Meanwhile, “Dolphins have been known to detect certain types of cancer and pregnancy in some people,” WJHG reports, “But experts say there is no clinical research to back up those behaviors.

As described, there does seem to be a way to test such claims but it still involves a good degree of subjectivity. We have no mechanism for this and we have no testing. We do have a situation where hits are remembered and misses forgotten. And coincidences. Should you believe this is a real thing? No. Not at all.

Many people find magic and mystery in dolphins and project stories and attributes onto them. This is speculation. They can’t see your tumor and “zap” it. But this kind of thinking is common.

But to make things interesting, the article mentions detection of pregnancy as well. This is slightly more plausible (but still dubious) since the fetus is a living thing, moving and giving off signals from the heart beat. This article is a longer version of the one linked above that explains more.

  4 comments for “Use dolphins to detect cancer? No.

  1. May 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Utter crap. I’ve worked with marine mammals, they are not benevolent. Dolphins in particular are not to be trusted. They will display dominance, kill for enjoyment, attack with intent, bite you out of malice, and there have been reported cases of people drowning from a dolphin trying to mate with them. I read a report that said that 50 percent of employees that work with captive marine mammals have been injured by them and that’s probably under-reported. They can be trained to tolerate humans just like many complex mammals, but they are wild and should be treated that way. And the story about Dreamer submitted by Michael Hyson is the icing on the cake. He’s from the Sirius Institute that advocates Dolphin-assisted births…I’m not even kidding, look it up.

  2. May 27, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Unlikely and impossible to prove. However it is quite widely thought that certain dogs, with their extraordinary noses, can smell cancer.

    Perhaps, one day we may be able to ask dolphins. Their encephalization quotient (brain to body mass ratio) is second only to our own, and they appear to have evolved language.

  3. Chris Howard
    May 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Medically speaking, even if it were true it would it be one of those “aha!” moments that would be followed by a “So what?” moment.

    It would be interesting from a biological perspective, but from a medical perspective, not so much.

  4. May 27, 2013 at 2:38 PM


    I looked it up. According to their website, the Sirius Institute is “Dedicated to the creation of human/dolphin co-creative habitats where dolphins and people can learn from each other through music, underwater birth, dolphin sound healing and restoration.”

    Dr Hyson’s bio was quite interesting. He seemed like a man who gradually peeled away from doing bona fide scientific work into… well, into claiming that “there are several dolphin assisted therapy projects that are showing improvements in a wide range of conditions like autism, Down*s syndrome, cerebral palsy, microcephaly, angina, and perhaps healing tumors.”

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