Healthcare professionals may refer to kidney cancer as renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Various factors may increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer, including smoking and living with obesity.
Kidney cancer typically occurs in older adults between the ages of 65–74 years old. However, it may develop in younger people in rare cases. The most common type of kidney cancer is RCC, which accounts for
This article explores risk factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing RCC and possible ways to reduce the risk.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Researchers believe that there are several reasons why obesity may increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer. These include:
- Adipose tissue dysfunction: Adipose tissue (body fat) dysfunction may cause an abnormal secretion of adipokines, a type of protein. Adipokines may contribute to the development of kidney cancer.
- Insulin resistance: This may cause a higher level of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). A high level of IGF-1 may increase the risk of tumors developing.
- High estrogen level: A high level of the hormone estrogen may increase the carcinogenic properties of IGF-1. This may contribute to a higher risk of kidney cancer.
The authors of a 2019 meta-analysis found that smoking may increase a person’s risk of kidney cancer by around 40%. Additionally, smoking more often and over a longer period of time may further increase the risk.
People who smoke can help reduce their kidney cancer risk by quitting smoking. However, it may take several years for their risk level to return to that of a nonsmoker.
Having a strong family history of RCC may increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. The ACS states that this risk is
Conditions that may increase a person’s kidney cancer risk include the following:
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease: This is a rare condition in which tumors grow in different parts of the body.
- Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma: This is a condition that increases a person’s risk of developing papillary RCCs.
- Hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma: This can cause muscle tumors and papillary RCCs.
- Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome: This may cause noncancerous skin tumors and increase a person’s risk of developing kidney tumors.
- Familial renal cancer: This may cause tumors in the neck and head, thyroid cancers, and kidney cancer.
- Cowden syndrome: This typically causes multiple noncancerous growths. However, it also increases a person’s risk of developing other types of cancer.
- Tuberous sclerosis: This typically causes noncancerous growths.
- Long-term dialysis: Certain studies have found that long-term dialysis may lead to a five-fold increase in a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer. However, this risk may be due to having kidney disease rather than the dialysis.
- Immunosuppressant medication: Healthcare professionals prescribe immunosuppressants to people who have received a kidney transplant. Immunosuppressants help prevent a person’s immune system from rejecting the new kidney. However, some of these medications may increase a person’s risk of kidney cancer.
- Gender: Males are almost twice as likely to develop kidney cancer than females.
- Race: Rates of kidney cancer are higher among African Americans than white Americans.
- Age: Kidney cancer is more common in older adults between
ages 65–74 years old.
- Pain relievers: Some research has suggested that acetaminophen may increase the risk of kidney cancer. Additionally, long-term use of the pain-relief drug phenacetin may result in a higher risk of kidney cancer.
- Exposure to certain substances: Asbestos, cadmium, or trichloroethylene exposure may increase a person’s risk of kidney cancer.
Many different risk factors may increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer. These include smoking, living with obesity, and kidney disease.
However, a person may be able to reduce their risk of developing kidney cancer. For example, they could take steps to manage any health conditions they have, maintain a moderate weight, and quit smoking, if applicable.
A person should talk with a healthcare professional about their individual risk of developing kidney cancer.