Texas is No. 1 in something we don't want to be known for.: the highest rates of cancers that can be attributed to excessive body weight, according to data from a report from the American Cancer Society and published in JAMA Oncology (Journal of the American Medical Association).
Those cancers include ones of these places: where the stomach and esophagus connect, colorectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, female breasts, main part of the uterus, ovary, kidney, renal pelvis and thyroid. About 1 in 17 cancers in the U.S. are known to be related to excess body weight.
It's a good reminder to keep that New Year's resolution to be healthier in 2019.
Why did Texas have the highest rates of these cancers? We don't know for sure, says Dr. Mika Cline, an oncologist with Texas Oncology. "We don't know if it has something to do with ethnic ratio or male to female ratio." Women in the U.S. have a rate of cancers related to excess body weight of 9.6 percent of all cancers. Men in the U.S. have a rate of 4.7 percent of cancers related to excess body weight. In Texas, the overall rate of these cancers was 8.1 percent. Alaska was next at 7.9 percent, followed by Indiana at 7.7 percent. Texas also had the highest number of men with these cancers: 6 percent.
What we do know is that there is evidence that excess weight and cancer have a relationship, Cline says. Excess weight might be related to hormone levels, and hormones impact certain cancers such as prostate, breast and endometrial.
We also know that excess weight creates a state of inflammation in the body like rheumatoid arthritis, another condition called dermatomyositis, an inflammation of the muscles. Both have been linked to an increased rate of cancer, Cline says.
The excess weight creates a generation of signaling molecules, which control the growth factor in our bodies, that are altered, she says. We already know that weight influences things such as heart disease and diabetes.
When Cline talks to patients about their weight, she tries to acknowledge that losing weight is hard, while also acknowledging that she's noticed a change in their body mass index. She's often had to have this conversation with breast cancer survivors who want to be able to stay cancer-free. She talks to them about excess weight influencing their chances at remission.
She acknowledges: "This is uncomfortable. I don't want to say it, and you may not want to hear it. I'm not trying to be judgmental here."
It also might feel daunting to think about getting down to an ideal weight. There are different classes of obesity, and sometimes just getting to a healthier form of obesity might make a big difference. "I'm not asking you to lose 100 pounds; even 10, 20 pounds can make a difference," she says, as researches have seen with diabetes and heart disease.
Cline knows that not only is weight loss hard — it's also confusing. Think about butter and how it was seen as bad for us and were told we should choose margarine. Now, it's considered better than margarine.
Cline advocates for a healthy diet that is plant-based, with vegetables filling most of the plate. She also wants to remind people that exercise is also important and affects metabolism and hormones in good way.