CHICO, Calif. - When it comes to breast cancer incidence rates, Butte County ranks 6th highest among California's 58 counties, but that actually might not be a bad thing.
Neighboring counties rank in the bottom half, so what makes Butte County different?
"One of the thoughts that keeps coming up is 'It's an agricultural community, is that impacting breast cancer rates?'" says Lydia Schrader, head of the Enloe Comprehensive Breast Care Center. "Then if you compare, as we talked about, to Glenn County (24th highest) or Tehama County (50th), which are also very agricultural yet have considerably lower risk for breast cancer."
According to Schrader, it's not very likely an environmental factor is the cause, instead it has to do with awareness and detection.
"Between 1988 and 2000 there was this consistent rise in the incidence of breast cancer across the country," she says. "Well why was that? It wasn't suddenly that we had more breast cancer, it was suddenly we were looking for it. With the advent of mammography and then the improvements in mammography, sonography, MRIs, what we're doing is we're just finding it earlier, we're reaching out to the community and we're finding the breast cancer."
And while breast cancer rates may be higher in Butte County, Schrader says the simple fact that it is being found, is good news.
"Detection won't equal prevention but what it does is the earlier the stage you identify breast cancer, the likelier you are to have a good outcome," she says.
And until there's a cure, lifestyle changes can also give women, and anyone for that matter, a fighting chance of staying cancer free altogether.
"Staying active, eating well, less processed foods, less carbohydrates, better fruits and vegetables, a lot of raw foods ... those are where you can directly intervene in the population," Schrader says. "But detection is still incredibly important because it will find it, it will increase the rates at which you find it, but then again if you can find them earlier, then survival would be better."
So while Butte County's high rate of breast cancer incidences are seemingly bad news, it's not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, it may mean more lives are being saved.
You can find more information on the Enloe Comprehensive Breast Care Center by going to their website.