By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Two of the primary risk factors for renal cell carcinoma are cigarette smoking and obesity. High blood pressure and a family history of kidney cancer are examples of other risk factors for the condition.
A risk factor is any factor that enhances a person’s risk of getting a disease or experiencing an adverse event. Having a risk factor does not necessarily mean a person will go on to develop a disease and sometimes these factors can be managed to help counteract the increased risk.
Some of the risk factors associated with renal cell carcinoma are described below:
- Gender – Renal cell carcinoma is around twice as common in men than in women. Men are more likely to smoke than women and more likely to work in environments where they are exposed to toxic chemicals.
- African Americans and American Indians have slightly higher rates of renal cell carcinoma than Caucasians.
- Cigarette smoking is a modifiable risk factor that raises the risk for renal cell carcinoma. However, this does not mean that all smokers will develop the condition.
- People with advanced kidney disease, especially those undergoing dialysis are at a significantly greater risk of developing renal cell carcinoma.
- Occupational exposure to certain toxic substances such as asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, herbicides and cadmium has been associated with an increased risk of renal cell carcinoma.
- Some inherited conditions are associated with an increased risk for renal cell carcinoma. Examples include hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome and hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma syndrome.
- Obesity is another common risk factor for renal cell carcinoma, possibly due to the hormonal imbalances obesity can cause.
- High blood pressure is also a risk factor for kidney cancer but it is unknown whether the increased risk is due to the hypertension itself or the medication used to treat it.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 16, 2014