The Association of British Insurers (ABI) wants its members to be able to ask women applying for policies if they have been tested for gene mutations that increase their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, according to UK media reports.

The ABI is expected to request approval for the measure from UK regulatory bodies, and should permission be granted, it could see women with a family history of cancer paying higher premiums or being denied a policy completely.

Considered by many a form of genetic discrimination, many European countries have already rejected similar proposals and a body of leading scientists and organizations have grouped together to lobby for the same ban in the UK.

Genetic testing should not become a vetting tool for employers and insurance companies, Dr Helen Wallace, the deputy director of campaign group Gene Watch UK, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.