A study carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health in the US among others has shown how putting different genetic and risk factor data into a prediction equation could help us understand how likely a woman is to develop breast cancer.

The breast cancer prediction model - called the Breast and Ovarian Analysis of Disease Incidence and Carrier Estimation Algorithm, or “BOADICEA” - is a highly complex equation that takes into account risk factors for breast cancer such as obesity and alcohol intake, plus genetic data and mammography findings.

"This is the first time that anyone has combined so many elements into one breast cancer prediction tool," said Prof Antonis Antoniou, lead researcher at the University of Cambridge.

"It could be a game changer for breast cancer because now we can identify large numbers of women with different levels of risk - not just women who are at high risk. This should help doctors to tailor the care they provide depending on their patients' level of risk.

"For example, some women may need additional appointments with their doctor to discuss screening or prevention options and others may just need advice on their lifestyle and diet.

"We hope this means more people can be diagnosed early and survive their disease for longer but more research and trials are needed before we will fully understand how this could be used."

The media headlines also pushed the NHS to release a statement stressing that: “The media headlines are premature. We are not at the point where all women are about to be invited for a breast cancer gene test.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, thought to affect around 1 in 8 women in their lifetime. There are various risk factors including age, obesity and hormonal and reproductive factors, such as whether or not a woman has ever given birth.