What Are the Causes of Kidney Cancer and Who is at a Higher Risk of Getting It?

What Are the Causes of Kidney Cancer and Who is at a Higher Risk of Getting It?
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Kidney cancer starts in the kidneys. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type in adults. Wilms’ tumor is more likely to be seen in children. Kidney cancer seems to be on the rise, though, it is not fully clear why. The causes of kidney cancer are not fully understood, but several factors are believed to increase the risk.


Certain lifestyle factors can increase the risk of developing kidney cancer. Being overweight increases a person’s risk. Smoking increases the risk. How much a person smokes seems to impact his risk. Quitting smoking seems to lower the risk.

Having a family history of the cancer seems to increase the risk of developing it.

Some studies also show that certain job hazards may increase the risk. This includes exposure to certain chemicals, such as cadmium, benzene, asbestos and organic solvents, particularly trichloroethylene.


A person’s race and gender may impact his or her risk. Men are affected twice as often as women. However, why this happens is not clear.

African Americans are affected slightly more often than Caucasians. The reason is not clear.

High Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure is one of the causes of kidney cancer. Since many high blood pressure patients take medication for this condition, it is often difficult to tell if it is the high blood pressure or the medication increasing the risk, or both.


Phenacetin, a pain reliever, has been linked to this type of cancer. However, in the United States, it has not been used for more than 20 years. Some high blood pressure medications have also been linked to this cancer.


Certain inherited conditions may cause this type of cancer. While these conditions only account for a small amount of kidney cancer diagnoses, they do greatly increase the patient’s risk of developing it.

Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome is characterized by having multiple tumors on the brain, eyes, pancreas, epididymis, kidneys, spine, adrenal glands and inner ear. The VHL gene is responsible and is found on chromosome three.

Tuberous sclerosis is another condition that may increase the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma. It is characterized by several bumps on the skin, mental retardation, seizures and cysts on the liver, pancreas and kidneys.

Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma is a genetic condition that is rare. It may increase the risk of kidney cancer.

Hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma is characterized by benign tumors in the skin and uterus. It also increases the chance of kidney cancer.

Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome affects the lungs and skin and is rare. It is characterized by multiple benign tumors on the neck, face and upper chest.

Hereditary renal oncocytoma is also said to increase the chance of kidney cancer.


National Brain Tumor Society. (2011). Tumor Types. Retrieved on April 14, 2011 from the National Brain Tumor Society: https://www.braintumor.org/patients-family-friends/about-brain-tumors/tumor-types/

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2011). Brain Cancer. Retrieved on April 14, 2011 from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: https://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-types/brain-cancer/index.html

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Smoking: sxc.hu – mi-sio