The World Cancer Research Fund International confirms that breast cancer is the most common cancer for women around the globe. The risk of developing this disease doubles each decade until menopause. These statistics are startling, but researchers have been successful in identifying several lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Five of the most frequently recommended lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of breast cancer are developing a weight management plan, increasing your physical activity levels, getting screened, practicing self-care and abstaining from alcohol.

Several research studies have confirmed the very close association between body mass index and breast cancer. One widely cited study, a follow-up of the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trial, revealed that overweight and obese women had an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than those who were thinner. After menopause, body weight becomes a bigger factor because of its effects on blood estrogen and insulin levels. Heavier women will have much higher estrogen and insulin levels which both contribute to their increased risk for certain breast cancers. Women who focus on losing weight can potentially reduce their risk of breast cancer. One large study showed that postmenopausal women who lost four to eleven pounds had a 20 percent decrease in their risk of breast cancer compared to women that did not focus on weight loss.

Stay Physically Active

Researchers and doctors agree that physical activity will decrease a woman’s risk for many different cancers. Last year, a groundbreaking study published in JAMA International Medicine showed that physical activity significantly reduced a woman’s risk for colon, breast, endometrial, liver, kidney, and stomach cancer. One 2013 study found that the reduction in risk due to physical activity was as large as 12 percent. Physical activity in these studies does not have to mean rigorous exercise. Physical activity can happen during your household duties, work-related duties, shopping routines, periods of providing child care or walk with your dogs.

Get Screened

Making healthy lifestyle choices will drastically impact your likelihood of developing breast cancer, but even the healthiest women can still become affected by the disease. One of the most recommended lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk of life-changing breast cancer is getting regularly screened. It’s recommended that women over the age of 20 should begin having regular breast exams with their primary care provider at least once every three years. Once you turn 40 years old, it’s recommended that you get a breast exam and mammogram yearly. Although screening won’t prevent you from developing cancer, it can help individuals catch the disease early and prevent its growth and spread.

Don’t Neglect your Mental Health

Low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression can be very overwhelming and oftentimes prevents women from seeking out care. This can result in an increase of physical symptoms, a poor diet, reduced motivation to exercise and reduced quality of life. It’s crucial to practice self-care, adopt stress management techniques, and work with a health care professional to help manage your symptoms.

Kick Those Vices

We all have some guilty vices. When these vices are unhealthy, they’ll have an enormous impact on our likelihood of developing certain cancers. Alcohol and cigarettes are considered carcinogens, or agents that cause cancer, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Alcohol greatly increases a woman’s likelihood of developing breast cancer, while cigarettes slightly increase breast cancer risk. Researches have pointed to the statistic that women who have more than three alcoholic drinks a week have a fifteen percent higher risk of breast cancer. Limiting your exposure to these unhealthy habits will not only reduce your likelihood of developing breast cancer but will benefit your overall health.

The National Cancer Institute reports that over 230,000 United States women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Scientists and medical professionals around the world are working hard to develop treatment plans and potential cures for those affected by breast cancer. While these tips won’t guarantee a cancer-free life, they will help you develop a strategy for an overall healthier lifestyle that can reduce your overall risk of being diagnosed.