1. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese has been shown to be a risk factor in developing certain types of breast cancer.
2. Check up on your family history. How many people in your family have had breast cancer? If you don't know, now's the time to check. Having close family members who developed breast cancer increases your risk as well since certain risk factors are genetic.
3. Don't be a stranger to your girls. Self breast exams may not have been given a ringing endorsement from the medical community, but you should still be familiar with how your breasts feel and look so you'll notice any changes.
4. Drink in moderation. While that glass of red is good for you, excessive alcohol drinking has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Stick to a one-a-day mantra if you want to reduce your risk.
5. Keep exercising. Not only will working out help you maintain a healthy weight, exercising itself has been shown to reduce your risk of developing cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that as little as 1.5 to 2.5 hours of walking a week has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Make it your mission to walk or exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
6. Support the cause. Everyone goes pink for the month of October, so pick a trustworthy organization and show your support. By donating time or money or dropping a few bucks on a cute product for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you'll be supporting breast cancer research that will help millions.
7. Know the facts about birth control. Taking oral contraceptives is one risk factor for developing breast cancer, but the risk decreases to normal levels the longer you are off them (women who took birth control pills more than 10 years ago, for example, have the same risks as women who never took the pill). Weigh the pros and cons of taking birth control and talk to your doctor if you want to know more.
8. Assess your risk. It always helps to be informed. Know all the risks of breast cancer — even ones that can't always be avoided, like starting your period at an early age, having a child after 35, or never breastfeeding — so you know what choices you have. Check the National Cancer Institute or The American Cancer Society for comprehensive lists of lifestyle, genetic, and environment risk factors.
9. Don't be shy at the doctor's. Your doctor isn't just there to admonish you when you admit you have a sugar addiction, she's also there to make sure you are knowledgeable about why and how lifestyle choices affect your health. Make sure you ask questions about anything that's unclear to you.
10. Relax. Just because you have certain risk factors for developing the disease doesn't mean you'll get breast cancer, or that you should spend your life worrying about getting it. After all, the biggest risk factors for getting breast cancer — being female and aging — aren't exactly something you can change. Instead of worrying, just do what you can to live a healthy lifestyle — you'll not only reduce your risk, but will also feel better overall.