Scientists have identified a new test which may help narrow the search for breast cancer patients likely to carry the faulty BRCA1 gene, according to Cancer Research UK.
The study, published in Clinical Cancer Research, revealed that by testing for markers in biopsy material, doctors may be able to predict those patients at a higher risk of carrying the gene, more accurately than before.
Currently women are only offered genetic testing when there is a very strong family history of breast cancer.
Cancer Research UK scientists from Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester were part of a worldwide collaborative study, which tested over 200 breast tumours for the specific marker.
They found 56 per cent of all BRCA1 gene carriers tested positive for it.
Breast cancer patients who carry the gene have double the chance of developing a second breast cancer and a 40 per cent higher chance of developing ovarian cancer.
Researcher Professor Doug Easton from Cancer Research UK's Genetic Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge said: "Many women who don't know their family history of breast cancer can be anxious about their children's risk when diagnosed.
"We hope that this novel marker test can be further developed to identify more patients in the future who should consider genetic testing but who do not fit the current criteria set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines."