Kidney cancer occurs due to cell changes that cause them to divide uncontrollably. The causes are unclear, but kidney cancer may have links to certain hormones and reproductive events in females.

The exact cause of kidney cancer is unclear. Some factors may increase the risk in everybody. However, certain factors may increase the risk in females specifically.

Read on to learn more about what may cause kidney cancer in females.

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.

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Researchers are still working out the exact cause of kidney cancer, so precisely what causes kidney cancer in females may also be unclear.

Many known factors can increase the risk of kidney cancer in general. These include smoking, obesity, and chronic kidney disease. Some risk factors may be specific to females.

A 2023 study found a connection between a type of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and events that change female sex hormones, including pregnancy and hysterectomy. Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus.

The research found that females who were more than 30 years of age when they first became pregnant developed RCC less often than those whose first pregnancy occurred under 20 years of age. The study also found that women who had a hysterectomy that removed both ovaries had RCC more often than those whose hysterectomies removed a single ovary.

The study suggested a possible link between rapidly changing levels of the female sex hormone estrogen and kidney cancer. They may interact with genes or affect how cells copy themselves in some way.

However, until now, research has only demonstrated that there may be a link rather than determined specifically how it leads to cancer. More studies are necessary.

Learn more about the causes of kidney cancer.

Several factors may influence a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer and have closer links to cancer development than sex differences. These factors include a person’s family history, environment, and lifestyle choices.


According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above may increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.

This risk becomes even higher if people have a BMI of 30 or above. Obesity increases levels of estrogen, especially in females. Estrogen might stimulate cancer cell growth.


Smoking tobacco is a significant kidney cancer risk. A person who regularly smokes 10 cigarettes per day is 1.5 times more likely to develop kidney cancer than a nonsmoker. A person who regularly smokes 20 cigarettes per day is 2 times more likely.

Family history

Having parents, siblings, or children with a kidney cancer diagnosis roughly doubles a person’s risk of kidney cancer. The risk may be highest for those who have siblings with kidney cancer.

People can also inherit a genetic health problem that increases their kidney cancer risk, including:

  • tuberous sclerosis
  • hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC)
  • hereditary papillary kidney cancer
  • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
  • Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome

High blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can roughly double a person’s risk of kidney cancer.

However, even if a person takes regular medications to manage hypertension, it may not reduce their kidney cancer risk.

Chronic kidney disease

People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have kidneys that gradually lose the ability to filter waste from the blood.

Having late stage CKD or kidney failure can increase a person’s risk of kidney cancer. This is particularly true if a person receives dialysis, which is a treatment in which machines artificially clean the blood.

Other factors

Other factors might increase a person’s kidney cancer risk, including:

A person may not notice any symptoms of kidney cancer in the beginning. However, if they have concerns about the risk factors of kidney cancer, or if they have a family history of the condition, they may wish to contact their doctor.

Symptoms of advanced kidney cancer may also resemble a kidney infection. Both require medical attention.

A person should considering contacting a medical professional if they notice any of the following symptoms:

  • foul-smelling, cloudy, or bloody urine
  • more frequent urges to pass urine
  • pain when passing urine
  • pain in the back or beneath the ribs that does not get better
  • genital pain
  • a lump in the neck or back or under the ribs

It is possible to cure some types of kidney cancer, such as RCC, with early diagnosis and treatment. Treatment often includes surgery to remove part of the kidney or the entire kidney.

If a person has a high risk of cancer coming back, their medical team may also administer immunotherapy or targeted therapy to help the individual’s immune system target the remaining cancer cells. Kidney cancer may become more aggressive or spread to nearby tissues and other organs. It can be difficult to cure in these cases.

Kidney cancer also does not often show symptoms until an advanced stage. At this point, it may not be curable.

Here are some frequently asked questions about kidney cancer.

How common is kidney cancer in females?

Roughly 1 in 73 females in the United States will develop kidney cancer in their lifetime. By comparison, males have a lifetime risk of around 1 in 43.

What are the main causes of kidney cancer?

The main risk factors for kidney cancer are smoking, obesity, and a family history of the condition. Other important factors include high blood pressure, CKD, long-term use of pain relief medications, and environmental exposure to harmful substances.

What are the early signs of kidney cancer?

Often, people with kidney cancer receive the diagnosis when testing for other conditions, as it does not usually cause symptoms in its early stages.

If and when symptoms do occur, the earliest ones may include blood in urine, a lump or swelling, pain around the stomach or back, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

What are the symptoms of kidney cancer in females?

There is no proven difference between kidney cancer symptoms in males and females. It can cause symptoms such as blood in urine, pain, swelling, and more.

However, females are more likely to develop smaller kidney tumors that do not spread as rapidly or aggressively, according to a 2021 review. Females also have a lower mortality rate due to kidney cancer than males.

Females have roughly half the kidney cancer risk of males. Research is ongoing into the causes, but the female sex hormone estrogen may have links to cancer development. Research has linked kidney cancer to changing estrogen levels after hysterectomy and pregnancy.

A range of factors can increase a person’s risk of kidney cancer. Many of these have a more direct role in kidney cancer development than sex, including obesity, smoking habits, and family history.