Lifestyle diseases are a result of an inappropriate relationship of people with the environment. They are diseases that occur based on daily habits and behavior. While cancer is not strictly a lifestyle disease, many forms of it can be attributed, in part, to the choices we make in our daily lives. In particular, breast cancer risk has been shown to increase for those who slip into bad habits. Conversely, by tweaking your behavior in a positive direction, you can reduce your risk of developing this cancer, which, according to estimates, will afflict 250,000 American women this year alone. Begin with these six lifestyle adjustments:

First And Foremost, Don’t Smoke

No fumar, stop lighting up, put down the cigarettes, finish with the filthy habit once and for all. Smoking is not only expensive, it is even more costly when it comes to your health. Consider the raw properties of a cigarette: There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, the National Cancer Institute explains, and at least 250 of these are known to be harmful.

Worse, among these top 250 chemicals, at least 69, including arsenic and nickel, can cause cancer. While smoking directly causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix, researchers at the American Cancer Society recently discovered smoking increases the risk of breast cancer for women, especially those who start before they have their first child. The evidence is clear: Smoking equals cancer.

Be Conscious Of Your Body, Be Aware Of Your Weight

No one is suggesting you become something you are not. It is not expected that you count every calorie. That’s not real life. However, being overweight is not real life, either. Everything is more difficult when you are too heavy; it’s harder to walk, it’s more difficult to find clothes, it’s tiring just climbing the stairs.  

More importantly, those who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if you become obese later in life, particularly after menopause. The increased risk with post-menopause pounds may be due, in part, to an increase in estrogen production. Following menopause, the major source of estrogen is not the ovaries, but fat tissue. Those with more fat make more estrogen.

The good news? Evidence suggests losing weight lowers breast cancer risk. If you’re carrying extra pounds, begin a relaxed diet. Cut out just one thing you are doing that you know you shouldn’t — nighttime snacks, anyone? What if you stopped the nighttime snacks on four nights each week… would that add up to dropping half a pound here and there? In six months, you will have lost a few pounds.

By The Way, Get Physical

Walk, run, lift weights, climb stairs, hit the black box, do pilates/yoga/spin class, or punch the heck out of a punching bag. Not liking any of the above? No matter where you live or what your budget, exercise does not have to become some major production. You can simply walk around the block. You can clean your house with great energy and do sit-ups on your bed. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, and a healthy weight helps prevent breast cancer. More importantly, physical activity keeps the blood flowing, the heart beating.

For the naysayers, some studies have shown no great benefit in exercise when it comes to cancer risk, but taken as a whole, the research suggests regular exercise may lower breast cancer risk by about 10 to 20 percent. That’s substantial. More precisely, exercise seems to reduce the odds of postmenopausal women getting breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. No one is too busy to fit in half an hour of walking every day, with wiggle room to miss one day a week.

Alcohol Is Not Your Friend 

Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who drink two or more beers (or glasses of wine or cocktails) each day have about one and a half times the risk of developing breast cancer, while women who have three alcoholic beverages have a full 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Some experts estimate the risk goes up another 10 percent for every additional drink each day. If you must drink, the American Cancer Society recommends no more than one per day. You may love alcohol, but it will never love you back.

Ration Any Use Of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)

In 2002, researchers found that postmenopausal women who took a combination of estrogen and progestin, often prescribed to combat night sweats, hot flashes, and other symptoms of menopause, were more likely to develop breast cancer than women who did not use these hormones. According to the American Cancer Society, one study found if 10,000 women took estrogen-progestin therapy for a year, this would add up to about eight more cases of breast cancer per year than if they had not taken hormones.

The positive news is that within five years after stopping the hormone treatment, breast cancer risk appears to return to normal. If you decide in favor of HRT, and for some women this is the best option, ask your doctor for the lowest dose and for as short a time as possible. You also may be able to manage your symptoms with non-hormonal therapies.

Reduce Your Exposure To Harmful Rays And Toxins

More studies need to be done, but it is hardly a stretch to believe radiation and environmental pollution would contribute to breast cancer risk. Research has linked exposure to organochlorines, including DDT, as a risk factor for breast cancer in the United States, Finland, Mexico, and Canada. Other investigations found exposures to chemical emissions — whether at home, in the street, or on the job — also may increase breast cancer risk. X-rays and gamma rays are well-known cancer-causing agents with real world evidence provided by studies of atomic bomb survivors in Japan, studies of people exposed during the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and studies of people dealing with high levels at work, such as uranium miners. While X-ray machines and CT scans may be key to healthcare diagnoses, many medical-imaging machines also produce radiation. Limit your exposure by getting tested only when necessary.