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What are the risk factors?

The exact cause of kidney cancer is not known. Research shows that people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop kidney cancer. Having a risk factor does not mean you will develop kidney cancer, and some people develop kidney cancer without having any known risk factors. If you are concerned, talk to your doctor.

Risk factors for kidney cancer include:

  • smoking – people who smoke have almost twice the risk of developing kidney cancer as those who don’t smoke. About 1 in 3 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, hereditary leiomyomatosis RCC, tuberous sclerosis, and Lynch syndrome.

If you are worried about your family history or whether you have inherited a particular syndrome, talk to your doctor about having regular check-ups or ask for a referral to a family cancer clinic. To find out more, call Cancer Council
13 11 20

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Understanding Kidney Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed November 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Alarick Picardo, Urologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Heidi Castleden, Consumer; Donna Clifford, Urology Nurse Practitioner, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Mike Kingsley, Consumer; Prof Paul De Souza, Medical Oncologist and Professor of Medicine, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Luke O’Connor, Urology Nurse, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Shankar Siva, Radiation Oncologist and Cancer Council Victoria Colebatch Fellow, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Homi Zargar, Uro‑Oncologist and Robotic Surgeon, Western Health and Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC.