Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer incidence is increasing — perhaps because more cases of kidney cancer are being diagnosed at an earlier stage or perhaps due to genetic changes, changes in dietary habits, or perhaps due to environmental factors that have not yet been identified.

Kristofer R. Wagner, MD, Urology; Director – Robotic Surgery

A risk factor is something about you that increases your chance of getting a disease or having a certain health condition. Some risk factors for kidney cancer you cannot change, but some you can. Changing the risk factors that you have control over will help you live a longer, healthier life.

Risk factors do not mean that you will get the disease. Many people who have these risk factors do not develop the disease and many who develop the disease did not have any of these risk factors.

The risk factors for kidney cancer are:

  • Age — The risk of developing kidney cancer increases with age. It most often develops in people over the age of 40.
  • Gender — Kidney cancer is more common in men than in women.
  • Smoking — People who smoke are at a greater risk of developing kidney cancer than people who don’t.
  • High blood pressure — People with high blood pressure have a greater risk of developing kidney cancer than those who don’t.
  • Obesity — Obese people are at a greater risk of developing kidney cancer than those who maintain a normal weight.
  • Kidney failure and dialysis— People who have experienced incidents of kidney failure and are on dialysis may be at greater risk of kidney cancer.
  • Industrial exposure — The chemicals asbestos, cadmium and trichloroethylene may increase the risk of kidney cancer.
  • von Hippel-Lindau disease — People with von Hippel-Lindau disease may be at greater risk of developing kidney cancer.

Kidney cancer is linked to obesity — and obesity is an epidemic that’s been increasing over the last 20 years.

Kristofer R. Wagner, MD, Urology; Director – Robotic Surgery

Genetics of Kidney Cancer

The precise cause of all kidney cancers is not known. While most cases of kidney cancer are sporadic, some are inherited or have a genetic basis. If kidney cancer is inherited, it’s usually seen in families with a number of members diagnosed with kidney and other types of cancer.

If you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with kidney cancer, your risk is greater than the regular population for developing kidney cancer. You are at even greater risk if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 55.

Inherited renal cell carcinoma is also more likely to be one or more of the following:

  • Early onset
  • In both kidneys
  • Have more than one tumor

If you are concerned that you or a member of your family may have a hereditary condition that may affect your chances of developing kidney cancer, ask your physician for a referral to the Scott & White Genetics Clinic for genetic counseling and possible genetic testing to determine if you have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

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