Professor Sarah Pinder and colleagues from King’s College London studied over 1,200 samples of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) cells.
DCIS accounts for around a fifth of breast cancers picked up by mammography.
The researchers found that a series of tumour cell characteristics identified women whose cancers were more likely to recur.
Professor Sarah Pinder said that, although screening is effective at identifying DCIS, there is not yet a reliable system to identify which cancers are likely to be aggressive and need further treatment.
'We believe that our test will help identify a group of women who are at a much greater risk of the disease returning after surgery,' she said.
'We need to confirm this in larger studies but it's reasonable to suggest that this group of women should have the disease completely removed and receive radiotherapy to help prevent the disease returning.'
The research is published in the British Journal of Cancer.