(HealthDay News) – Analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from breath samples is able to distinguish healthy patients from those with colorectal cancer with more than 75% accuracy, according to a study published in the January issue of the British Journal of Surgery.

To examine whether patients with colorectal cancer have a specific VOC pattern, Donato F. Altomare, MD, from the University ‘Aldo Moro’ of Bari in Italy, and colleagues used thermal-desorber gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the VOC profile of exhaled breath from 37 patients with colorectal cancer and 41 healthy controls in a trial phase. Patterns were further evaluated in a validation phase involving 25 blinded samples.

Using a probabilistic neural network applied to a pattern of 15 compounds, the researchers were able to discriminate between patients with colorectal cancer and healthy controls with a sensitivity of 86%, a specificity of 83%, and an accuracy of 85%. The accuracy of analysis was validated in the additional sample of 25 patients, correctly identifying 19 patients, for an overall accuracy of 76%.

“Breath VOC analysis appears to have potential clinical application in colorectal cancer screening, although further studies are required to confirm its reliability in heterogeneous clinical settings,” the authors write.

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