Causes and prevention of kidney cancer

The exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown. But there are certain things called risk factors that can increase your chance of getting the disease. Some risk factors are linked to medical conditions or your lifestyle, while others are linked to your job. These risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk of kidney cancer increases with age. It is more common in people over the age of 40.
  • Gender: Kidney cancer is about twice as common in men as in women.
  • Race: If you are an African-American, you have a slightly higher rate of kidney cancer. The reasons for this are not clear.
  • Obesity: If you are very overweight, you have a higher risk of kidney cancer. Doctors believe obesity cause changes in certain hormones that can lead to kidney cancer.
  • Smoking: If you smoke, your risk of kidney cancer is higher. It also depends on how much you smoke. Your risk drops if you stop smoking, but it is still higher than that of a non-smoker.
  • Chemicals in the workplace: If you are exposed to certain chemicals or substances in your workplace, you may be at risk. These include asbestos, cadmium, some herbicides, benzene, and organic solvents like trichloroethylene.
  • Inherited genes: You may inherit from your parents a tendency to develop certain types of cancer. Some rare inherited conditions, like Von Hippel-Lindau disease, can cause kidney cancer.
  • Family history of kidney cancer: If you have a strong family history of kidney cancer, your chance of developing the disease is higher.
  • Medical conditions: The risk of kidney cancer may be higher if you have high blood pressure. It is not certain if the blood pressure or the drugs to treat it or both may be the cause. If you have advanced kidney disease, especially if you need dialysis, you also have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

If you feel you may be at risk, first talk to your family doctor (GP) about your concerns. He or she may advise you to visit a specialist. If you have any hereditary causes of kidney cancer, do visit your doctor regularly. Some doctors may advise you to have regular tests such as CT scans.

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm