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ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about what factors increase the chance of developing this type of cancer. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.
A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.
The following factors may raise a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer:
Smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of developing kidney cancer and is believed to cause about 30% of kidney cancer in men and approximately 25% in women.
Gender. Men are two to three times more likely to develop kidney cancer than women.
Race. Black people have higher rates of kidney cancer.
Age. Kidney cancer is primarily a disease of adults and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70.
High blood pressure. Men with high blood pressure (also called hypertension) may be more likely to develop kidney cancer.
Overuse of certain medications. Painkillers containing phenacetin, once popular in over-the-counter medications, have been banned in the United States since 1983 because of their link to kidney cancer. Also, diuretics and analgesic pain pills, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, have been linked to kidney cancer.
Exposure to cadmium. Some studies have shown a connection between kidney cancer and exposure to the metallic element cadmium. Working with batteries, paints, or welding materials may increase the risk as well. This risk is even higher for smokers exposed to cadmium.
Long-term dialysis. Patients using dialysis (see the Overview section) for a long time may develop cancerous cysts in their kidneys. These growths are usually found early and can often be removed before the cancer spreads.
Genetic and hereditary risks. A hereditary risk of developing kidney cancer has been recognized, but only a few specific genes that increase this risk have been found. One of these genes is responsible for an inherited genetic disorder called Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome; 40% of people with this disorder develop kidney cancer.
Also, two genetic syndromes related to renal cell carcinoma have been identified: Birt-Hogg-Dubé and hereditary leiomyomatosis. Both of these genetic syndromes cause diseases of the skin as well as kidney cancer. Learn more about the genetics of kidney cancer.
Other diseases. People with tuberous sclerosis, a complex genetic disorder, have an increased risk of kidney cancer, as do people with Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (see above).
Research continues to look into what factors cause kidney cancer and what people can do to lower their personal risk. Not enough is known about kidney cancer to determine exactly how to prevent it. However, there are some steps people can take to lower their risk, such as quitting smoking, lowering blood pressure, controlling body weight, and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your personal risk of developing this type of cancer.
Choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this guide to learn about what symptoms this type of cancer can cause. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.