A mother's breast milk could be tested to predict if she is at risk of developing breast cancer, scientists claim.

Cells within breast milk can be tested for certain genes linked to the disease. It is hoped that all women who give birth in hospital could provide milk for screening.

Scientists claim that, with 80 per cent of women giving birth, it would provide a cheap, simple way of assessing risk.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, collected 250 samples from mothers who'd had a biopsy for breast cancer. They then tested the DNA of the milk to see whether genes could identify early signs of the disease.

The study discovered that women whose biopsies suggested they had cancer also had signs of the disease in the milk cells.

Lead researcher Dr Kathleen Arcaro said that although the pilot study was small it was "sufficient to tell us we can use the cells in breast milk to assess breast cancer risk".