Wilms Tumor - Childhood: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing this type of cancer. To see other pages, use the menu.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a tumor. Although risk factors often influence the development of a Wilms tumor, most do not directly cause it. Some children with several risk factors never develop a tumor, while others with no known risk factors do.

Most often, Wilms tumor is not inherited, but there can be genetic reasons for the tumor’s development.

  • Genetic changes. Children may have a mutated (changed), damaged, or missing gene. This change can also cause other birth defects. About 15% of children with a Wilms tumor were born with other health problems.

  • WAGR syndrome. WAGR syndrome is a condition that causes a number of birth defects. Children with this syndrome have a 33% chance of developing Wilms tumor. WAGR stands for:

    • Wilms tumor

    • Aniridia (no iris in the eye)

    • Genitourinary abnormalities, which are changes to the reproductive and urinary organs, or gonadoblastoma, which is a rare tumor of the reproductive organs

    • Intellectual disability, once called mental retardation

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. This condition causes enlarged internal organs and limbs. Children with this syndrome have a higher risk of developing Wilms tumor, kidney cysts, and tumors of the liver (hepatoblastoma), pancreas, and adrenal glands.

  • Denys-Drash syndrome. This is a condition in which a boy’s sex organs do not develop correctly. Boys with this syndrome have a higher risk of developing Wilms tumor.

  • Family history. A small number of children with Wilms tumor have a relative in their family with the disease.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems this type of tumor can cause. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.