Aim To assess the feasibility of an unenhanced, flow-sensitive, alternating inversion recovery-balanced steady-state free precession (FAIR TrueFISP) arterial spin labelling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique for quantification of breast cancer perfusion. Materials and methods Eighteen untreated breast tumour patients (mean age 53 ± 17 years, range 30–68 years) and four healthy controls (mean age 51 ± 14 years, range 33–68 years) were enrolled in this study and were imaged using a clinical 1.5 T MRI machine. Perfusion measurements were performed using a coronal single-section ASL FAIR TrueFISP technique in addition to a routine breast MRI examination. T1 relaxation time of normal breast parenchyma was determined in four healthy volunteers using the variable flip angle approach. The definitive diagnosis was obtained at histology after biopsy or surgery and was available for all patients. Results ASL perfusion was successfully acquired in 13 of 18 tumour patients and in all healthy controls. The mean ASL perfusion of invasive ductal carcinoma tissue was significantly higher (88.2 ± 39.5 ml/100 g/min) compared to ASL perfusion of normal breast parenchyma (24.9 ± 12.7 ml/100 g/min; p < 0.05) and invasive lobular carcinoma (30.5 ± 4.3 ml/100 g/min; p < 0.05). No significant difference was found between the mean ASL perfusion of normal breast parenchyma and invasive lobular carcinoma tissue (p = 0.97). Conclusion ASL MRI enables quantification of breast cancer perfusion without the use of contrast material. However, its impact on diagnosis and therapy management of breast tumours has to be evaluated in larger patient studies.