A deeper dive: cancer diagnosis
Each month, we explain a few questions from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study questionnaire.
Participants in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study are acutely aware of the reported higher incidence of cancer in golden retrievers – it’s a big part of why they and their dogs are in the study. In the three-year owner’s survey, several questions address cancer diagnosis. As we currently are in the midst of the Morris Animal Foundation Unite to Fight Pet Cancer campaign, now is a great time to take a deeper dive into that part of our survey.
Questions 2, 17 and 32 in the three-year owner survey, and question seven on the veterinary survey, all address cancer diagnoses, both old and new, in study participants as well as in their dam, sire and siblings (if known).
The endpoint of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study centers on reaching 500 total cancer diagnoses in one (or more) of four cancer types: mast cell tumor, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma. As dogs age, they are more likely to develop cancer, and as our dogs live longer, they have more opportunities to develop cancer. Experts estimate that one in four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime, and almost 50 percent of dogs over 10 years of age will develop cancer.
To date, 27 dogs in our study population have been diagnosed with cancer. The most common tumor in our dogs so far is mast cell tumor, with 11 cases. Lymphoma diagnoses are a close second with 10 confirmed diagnoses. One dog was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, and the remaining five dogs had tumors that were of undetermined type.
The number of study dogs with cancer is still too small to look for statistical associations with environmental or genetic factors, but the study team continues its ongoing analysis of data points. Dr. Missy Simpson, the foundation’s veterinary epidemiologist, said that although the number of study dogs with cancer is small, she has started to sort through the data on these dogs to look for known cancer risk factors, such as obesity.
As the oldest members of our study cohort enter middle age, we expect to see not only more cancer diagnoses, but also the appearance of other significant diseases. Each time a patient is diagnosed with a disease, or multiple diseases, the data sheds more light on the possible forces behind canine disease development.
Morris Animal Foundation and the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study team thank the participants, veterinarians, volunteers and supporters who are working hard to make this study successful, and make an impact on the lives of dogs everywhere, today and in the future.