A recent study from the University of North Carolina found that postmenopausal women who had consumed a lot of barbecued and smoked red meat or chicken over their lifetimes had a greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate less. "When you grill meat, the amino acids form compounds called heterocyclic amines, which are carcinogenic. They're especially concentrated in charred meat," says Rachel Zinaman, R.D., a nutritionist at Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center's Evelyn Lauder Breast Center. "Plus, when the fat drips on the heat source," she adds, "it forms polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, another cancer-causing compound that binds to the meat." If the barbecue grill is beckoning, protect yourself by marinating the meat first or cutting it into smaller chunks. These cook faster than larger pieces, which reduces the likelihood that carcinogenic chemicals will form.
That means stopping after that first mojito. "More than one daily drink increases your odds of developing breast cancer by 20 percent or more," says Zinaman. In a recent Norwegian study, those who had two or more drinks a day during the previous five years had an 82 percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than those who didn't drink at all. "Alcohol may raise estrogen levels and interfere with the body's ability to use folic acid, a B vitamin that's been linked to cancer prevention," she says.
A diet that's rich in fiber (30 or more grams a day) can halve the risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women, according to a new study from the University of Leeds in England. It makes sense, says Zinaman. "Fiber-rich foods contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that are thought to be protective."