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What are the risk factors?

The exact causes of kidney cancer are not known. The factors listed below may increase the risk of developing kidney cancer. Having these risk factors does not mean you will develop kidney cancer, some people develop kidney cancer without having any known risk factors. If you are concerned talk to your doctor.

Risk factors include:

  • smoking – people who smoke have almost twice the risk of developing kidney cancer as nonsmokers. About 1 in 3 cases of all kidney cancers are thought to be related to smoking; the longer a person smokes and the more they smoke, the greater the risk
  • obesity – too much body fat may cause changes to some hormones that can lead to kidney cancer
  • high blood pressure – whatever the cause, high blood pressure increases the risk of kidney cancer
  • kidney failure – people with end-stage kidney disease have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer
  • family history – people with a parent, brother or sister (first-degree relative) with kidney cancer are at increased risk
  • inherited conditions – about 2–3% of kidney cancers develop in people who have particular inherited syndromes, including von Hippel–Lindau disease, hereditary papillary RCC, Birt–Hogg–Dubé syndrome and Lynch syndrome
  • exposure to toxic substances at work – the risk may be higher after regular exposure to chemicals, such as some metal degreasers, arsenic or cadmium, which are used in mining, farming, welding and painting.

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Understanding Kidney Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed November 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Daniel Moon, Urologic Surgeon, Australian Urology Associates, and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Ian Basey, Consumer; Gregory Bock, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Tina Forshaw, Advanced Practice Nurse Urology, Canberra Health Services, ACT; Dr Suki Gill, Radiation Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Karen Walsh, Nurse Practitioner, Urology Services, St Vincents Private Hospital Northside, QLD; Dr Alison Zhang, Medical Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW.