Scientists at Queen’s University have developed a blood test which may detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier.

The simple screening method involves a biomarker made up of four proteins seen together.

The study, published in the journal Nature, involved the analysis of blood samples from 80 individuals across a seven-year period.

While further research is needed, cancer charities say they are encouraged by the results.

Lead author of the study, Dr Bobby Graham, said: “The algorithm designed will screen the blood sample and flag any abnormal levels of the proteins associated with the cancer.

"The screening test identifies ovarian cancer up to two years before the current tests allow."

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer for women in the UK and in 2016, a total of 4,227 deaths were reported.

If diagnosed at stage one, there is a 90% chance of five-year survival compared to 22% if diagnosed at stage three or four.

Dr Rachel Shaw from Cancer Research UK said: "Around half of ovarian cancer cases are picked up at a late stage, when treatment is less likely to be successful.

“So developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential.

"At Cancer Research UK, we're working hard to find new ways to detect cancer early and improve the tests already available.

“It's really exciting to see these encouraging results for this type of ovarian cancer.”