Worli Sea-Link illuminated in pink colour as a part of Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign on October 4, 2013 in Mumbai, India. Worldwide, breast cancer accounts for 22.9% of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in women. In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide. (Photo by Kalpak Pathak/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Breast cancer isn't preventable, but there are small steps you can take to reduce your risk. Start working these habits into your life.
Limit yourself to two or three alcoholic drinks a week
Alcohol, consumed even in small amounts, is believed to increase the risk of breast cancer. Most doctors recommend cutting back on wine, beer, and hard liquor.
A recent study showed the link between drinking and breast cancer was especially strong in the 70% of tumors known as hormone-sensitive.
Exercise at least three times a week (more often is even better)
And when you do exercise, work to keep your heart rate above its baseline level for a minimum of 20 continuous minutes. Long walks are nice too, but it's the more vigorous exercise (expect to sweat!) that really helps your heart and cuts your cancer risk. Try this 40-minute walking workout.
Maintain your body weight, or lose weight if you're overweight
Research shows that being overweight or obese (especially if you're past menopause) increases your risk, especially if you put on the weight as an adult. And a study released in March 2008 by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston showed that obese and overweight women also had lower breast cancer survival rates and a greater chance of more aggressive disease than average-weight or underweight women.
Do a monthly breast self-exam
Be sure to get a breast exam from your doctor and have your technique reviewed regularly. You might catch a lump before a mammogram does, and it's a good idea to follow the changes in your body.
Ask your doctor about a mammogram
Catching a tumor early boosts the chance of survival significantly: The five-year survival rate can be as high as 98 percent for the earliest-stage localized disease, but hovers around 27 percent for the distant-stage, or metastatic, disease.