While there are no guarantees, the following lifestyle changes recommended by the American Cancer Society may help decrease your risk of breast cancer.

Limit your risk of breast cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon Hands

Certain lifestyle behaviors can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Risk reduction means making choices to avoid or minimize any possible risk factors that you can. It also means increasing the protective factors in your life so your chances of developing breast cancer are lower.

While there are no guarantees, the following lifestyle changes recommended by the American Cancer Society may help decrease your risk

Have children before the age of 30: Women who have not had children, or who had their first child after age 30, have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Being pregnant many times and at an early age reduces breast cancer risk. Being pregnant lowers a woman's total number of lifetime menstrual cycles, which may be the reason for this effect.

Research birth control options: Studies have found that women who are using birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. This risk seems to go back to normal over time once the pills are stopped. Women who stopped using the pill more than 10 years ago do not seem to have any increased risk. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of birth control pills.

Avoid post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT): Post-menopausal hormone therapy increases the risk of getting breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of using PHT. If a woman and her doctor decide to try PHT for symptoms of menopause, it is usually best to use it at the lowest dose that works for her and for as short a time as possible.

Breast-feed: Some studies have shown that breast-feeding slightly lowers breast cancer risk, especially if the breast-feeding lasts 1½ to 2 years. This could be because breast-feeding lowers a woman's total number of menstrual periods, as does pregnancy.

Avoid alcohol: Use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Women who have one drink a day have a very small increased risk. Those who have two to five drinks daily have about 1.5 times the risk of women who drink no alcohol. The American Cancer Society suggests limiting the amount you drink to one drink a day.

Stay slim: Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially for women after change of life or if the weight gain took place during adulthood.  Also, the risk seems to be higher if the extra fat is around the waist.  But the link between weight and breast cancer risk is complex.  And studies of fat in the diet as it relates to breast cancer risk have often given conflicting results. The American Cancer Society recommends you stay at a healthy weight throughout your life and avoid gaining too much weight.

Exercise: Studies show that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. The only question is how much exercise is needed. One study found that as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2½ hours of brisk walking per week reduced the risk by 18 percent. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more. The American Cancer Society suggests that you exercise for 45 to 60 minutes five or more days a week.

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Editor's Note:

The following tips were found on the American Cancer Society website on Aug. 31, 2010.