TORONTO — A new study suggests race may influence whether women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive, finding black women are more likely to die even when their tumours are found when they are small.

The study says even when breast cancer is diagnosed at stage 1 in black women, they have a higher risk of dying than women of Japanese ethnicity or white women.

The work is by researchers at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital and is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Senior author Dr. Steven Narod says it has long been thought differences in survival between white and black women with breast cancer related to access to quality health care.

But he says the findings of this study suggest that even if the playing field is levelled in relation to access to high-quality care, the outcomes are still different.

An editorial that accompanied the study suggests the survival gap will only be closed when large numbers of women from different minority groups are included in studies aimed at finding the genetic basis of different types of breast cancers.