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Knowing is half the battle: 5 ways to help prevent breast cancer

Cancer is a scary word. Most of us know someone who has had it; some of us may have even had it ourselves.  
In recent years, there has been a focus on breast cancer, and rightfully so.  
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, second only to skin cancer.  
The statistics on breast cancer are sobering. In the United States, approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, and in 2010, there was an expected 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed.  
These numbers can be intimidating, but there are preventative measures women can take.    
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so there’s no time like the present to develop better habits to help reduce your risk of developing such a scary disease.  
Studies now show that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your odds of developing the disease. 
As if there weren’t enough benefits to losing weight and getting fit, an article in USA Today cites a study that found obese women to be 30 to 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women of a healthy weight.  
A study conducted by the American Cancer Society found that women who put on 21 to 30 pounds after age 18 were 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who remained within five pounds of their pre-18 weight. Women who gained more than 70 pounds doubled their chances.
With that said, there are a number of ways to help reduce your risk:
1. Avoid alcohol  
I realize this isn’t very popular advice, especially in college. However, studies have shown that even women who only consume moderate amounts of alcohol (around two drinks per day) increase their chance of developing breast cancer by 20 percent. This makes the odds of developing breast cancer one in six as opposed to one in eight.
2. Regular exercise
Exercise benefits almost every aspect of your health, including your risk of breast cancer. You don’t have to stay in the gym for hours to make a difference.
Simply take advantage of the wonderful fall weather and go for a walk to get a little cardio in each day. Just 30 minutes of walking a day will improve your level of cardio fitness, which will help improve your overall health.
3. Healthy eating  
People often forget that making healthy food choices is as important as exercise. Obesity has been linked to different kinds of cancer, and often exercise is not the only way to lose weight — your nutritional choices have to change, too.
You don’t have to radically change your diet overnight, but just take small steps to a healthier you by eating less fried food, candy, fast food or whatever your personal weakness is.
4. Know your family
A woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if her mother or sister have had breast cancer. It’s important to know your family medical history so you know whether or not you should be especially cautious of certain diseases and disorders.  
5. Awareness  
Being aware of what actions increase or decrease your risk of breast cancer, and acting upon that awareness, is the greatest way to lower your chances of falling victim to an all-too-common sickness.
There is nothing anyone can do to be certain that he or she won’t get cancer; however, there are preventative measures people can take. All it takes is a little homework to find out what those measures are.
So take advantage of Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s never too early (or too late) to become a healthier, more resilient person.
Do some research and educate yourself on what factors contribute to the development of breast cancer, and learn what steps you can take to help prevent such a terrible disease from happening to you.