Scientists have developed a new gene test that can accurately predict the risk of developing breast cancer, and could be used on high-risk groups.

The Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) test will reduce the number of women having surgery to remove their breasts, by narrowing down their risk, researchers said.

Developed by researchers, including those from University of Manchester in the UK, the test looks at 18 genetic variants, in the blood or saliva, known to affect the chances of getting breast cancer.

“The test will initially be available for patients having BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations, with a family history of breast cancer,” researchers said.

“This is a massive game changer for breast cancer where we now have tests which can give accurate risk in the whole population, those with a family history and those with BRCA mutations,” Gareth Evans, professor at Manchester University was quoted as saying by BBC News.

Women with these gene mutations are often quoted as having 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer, but in fact their risk of cancer is much more complex than that and different for every person, researchers said.

“Women with a BRCA mutation have a risk of breast cancer somewhere between 30 per cent and 90 per cent,” Evans said.

Being able to narrow down a woman’s individual risk will mean they are better informed about whether to have a mastectomy or not, researchers said.

They looked at samples from 60,000 women. Within two years they hope to have improved the gene test to include up to 300 genetic variants that are known to affect the likelihood of developing breast cancer.