Kidney Cancer: Risk Factors


Studies have shown that certain lifestyle, environmental and heredity factors increase the risk of developing renal tumors. Although we do not know all the causes of kidney cancer, the following factors may increase the risk of developing this disease:


The risk of renal cell carcinoma significantly increases with age, most kidney cancers occur in people over 45 years of age; with the highest incidences between the ages of 55 and 84.


Men are twice as likely to develop renal cell carcinoma as women.


Black men have a slightly higher risk than white men of developing renal cell carcinoma.


Smokers, especially those who smoke pipes or cigars, are at greater risk than nonsmokers. The risk increases the longer you smoke and decreases after you quit, although it takes years to reach the same risk level as someone who has never smoked.


Studies have found a strong link between excess weight (in both men and women) and renal cell carcinoma. In fact, obesity may account for as many as one-third of renal cell carcinomas.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma. The risk is even greater if you are also overweight. Although treating high blood pressure appears to reduce this risk, diuretic medications used to treat hypertension may actually contribute to kidney cancer.

Environmental Toxins

Coal oven workers in steel plants have high rates of kidney cancer. So do people exposed to cadmium, to organic solvents such as trichloroethylene, and to asbestos, a fireproofing material that has also been linked to lung cancer.


People who receive long-term dialysis for treatment of chronic renal failure are at greater risk of developing kidney cancer, possibly because renal failure depresses the immune system. People who have a kidney transplant and receive immunosuppressant drugs also are more likely to develop kidney cancer.


In some cases, exposure to radiation may increase your risk of kidney cancer.


Tuberous sclerosis (a disease characterized by several bumps on the skin, seizures, mental retardation, and cysts in the kidneys, liver and pancreas) and von Hippel-Lindau disease (a disease caused by a genetic mutation that leads to multiple tumors in the kidney, often at an early age) are both associated with an increased risk of developing kidney tumors. Most often in tuberous sclerosis the tumors are benign. However, in von Hippel-Lindau disease, the tumors are usually malignant.