Risk Factors of Kidney Cancer

Executive Summary

Risk factors influence the chance of developing cancer (kidney cancer) among individuals, but individuals with no risk factors also develop cancer. The common risk factors for kidney cancer include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, severe kidney disorder, overuse of certain medications, cadmium exposure, family history, and long-term dialysis. The other risk factors for kidney cancer are genetic conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome, and Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma (HPRCC). It also includes Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC), Succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) syndrome, and BAP1 tumor predisposition syndrome (BAP1 TPS). Hereditary factors can particularly increase the risk of contradicting kidney cancer.

Kidney Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors refer to the factors that can further increase the chance or probability of developing cancer or any illness. Even if the risk factors may not be the direct cause of cancer or disease but can influence its development. We can see that some people with no risk of kidney cancers develop the disease, whereas some others with several risk factors do not. Hence, we must keep a close watch on our health and have a good understanding of the risk factors risky to take care of our health and well-being. Therefore, a good understanding of the risk factors and communicating them on time with your care provider is necessary. It will help you make better healthcare choices while living a healthier lifestyle.

Factors that increase the risk


Smoking increases the risk of developing kidney cancer or renal cell carcinoma (RCC). It causes around 25% of kidney cancers in women and 30% in men. And so, the risk of contracting kidney cancers and most other kidney disorders will decrease if smoking is put to an end.

Age and Gender

People belonging to the age group of 50 to 70 years are at a high risk of developing cancer ​1​. Generally, renal cell carcinoma affects men two to three times than women ​2​.

High blood pressure

People with hypertension or high blood pressure are more prone to develop kidney cancer. The risk does not seem to lower even if the blood pressure is under control via medication.


Being obese increases the risk of kidney cancer ​3​. Hence it is vital to follow a healthy lifestyle by eating a proper diet and exercising.

Severe kidney disorders

People who have any chronic kidney disorders or whose kidney is not in a healthy condition are at a higher risk of developing cancerous growth in the kidney.

Overuse of certain medications

Overuse of certain drugs and medications can be harmful to the body and cause tumors to develop. Painkillers containing phenacetin are linked with transitional cell carcinoma. Other analgesic and diuretic drugs like acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen, can also increase the risk of kidney cancer.

Cadmium Exposure

Some research has shown that exposure to metallic elements like cadmium is likely to cause kidney cancers. Hence, people closely working with welding materials, batteries, or paints are at an increased risk ​4​. And the risk is even higher for those smokers who have had exposure to chemicals like cadmium.

Family history

Those with a significant family history of kidney cancer may be more likely to get the disease. Individuals with first-degree relatives, such as a parent, sister, brother, or kid, are at high risk. If other extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and cousins, have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, the risk increases even more. Specific circumstances in family members, such as early diagnosis, rare types of kidney cancer, cancer in both kidneys (bilaterality), more than one tumor in the same kidney (multifocality), and other types of benign or malignant tumors, may raise the risk of a hereditary kidney cancer problem. 

If you are worried about kidney cancer running in your family, get a complete family history and share the results with your doctor. Even so, you and your doctor can take action to lower your risk and be proactive about your health by understanding your family history. 

Long-term dialysis

Dialysis patients with a long history of dialysis may develop malignant cysts in their kidneys ​5​. These growths are typically discovered early in the progression of cancer and can generally be eliminated before spreading.


Although kidney cancer can run in families from one generation to another, inherited or hereditary kidney cancers connected to a single inherited gene are rare, accounting for about 5% of all kidney cancers. Over a dozen distinct genes have been discovered that raise the risk of kidney cancer, many of which are tied to specific genetic disorders. Likewise, most of these symptoms are linked to a specific type of kidney cancer.

The discovery of a specific genetic syndrome in a family can assist a person and their doctor in developing an appropriate cancer screening plan. And, in some situations, determining the best treatment options. While, only genetic testing can tell you if you have a hereditary mutation. Most experts strongly advise that anybody wanting genetic testing speak with a cancer genetics professional, such as a genetic counselor, who can explain the dangers and benefits of genetic testing.

Genetic disorders that increase risks

Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome

People who have VHL syndrome are more likely to develop a variety of malignancies ​6​. And so, clear cell kidney cancer affects up to 60% of persons with this condition.

Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD)

This is an uncommon genetic disorder linked to noncancerous skin tumors, lung cysts, and a higher chance of both noncancerous and cancerous kidney tumors. Most tumors are chromophobes, oncocytomas, or hybrid tumors, which is a combination of both.

Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma (HPRCC)

HPRCC is a relatively rare hereditary disease that raises the papillary renal cell carcinoma risk of type 1 papillary. HPRCC patients have a very high risk of getting multiple kidney tumors on both kidneys but no higher risk of other malignancies or illnesses.

Hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma (HLRCC)

HLRCC is linked to a 16 percent greater chance of getting a kind of kidney cancer called type 2 papillary or collecting duct renal cell carcinoma. Leiomyomata are skin nodules that commonly appear on the arms, legs, chest, and back. Thus, leiomyomas, or uterine fibroids, are common in women with HLRCC. Whereas, adrenal tumors are quite rare. 

Succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex syndrome

SDH refers to a category of hereditary cancer disorders that include pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma tumors. This disease may also be associated with gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) and kidney malignancies.

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) syndrome

TSC syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the skin, brain, kidney, and cardiac alterations. Angiomyolipoma of the kidney affect more than half of people with TSC. Therefore, approximately 2% of such people will get kidney cancer.

BAP1 tumor predisposition syndrome (BAP1 TPS)

Melanoma of the skin and eye, mesothelioma, and clear cell RCC are linked to a hereditary mutation in the BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1) gene.

Hereditary factors can increase the risk of contradicting kidney cancer. Other hereditary causes of kidney cancer are still under research.


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