A "biosignature" of compounds in the breath may reveal lung cancer, research shows (photo: public domain)

Another study published in 2012 identified colon cancer with more than 80-percent accuracy using 15 previously identified VOCs.

In fact, the race to perfect and prove a breath test for cancer is on around the country, with numerous research teams working to identify cancer-specific patterns of VOCs and to develop devices sensitive enough to accurately measure their presence.

And no wonder. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer of all, killing more people than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined, according to the American Lung Association. One of the primary reasons lung cancer is so deadly is that it’s typically caught at a late stage, when it’s already begun to spread, or metastasize. Stage I lung cancer has a 70-percent cure rate, but by stage III or later fewer than 25 percent of cases can be cured. Hence the importance of developing tests that can detect lung tumors early.

Source: Condensed from an article originally published 01/28/14 in FORBES/Health online.