The exact cause of kidney cancer is unknown, but there are risk factors that can increase the chances of developing the condition.
The three main risk factors for kidney cancer are:
Obesity is a significant risk factor for kidney cancer. A study carried out by Cancer Research UK in 2011 found that around a quarter of kidney cancer cases are associated with being overweight or obese (25% of cases in men and 22% in women). There’s a strong link between someone’s body mass index (BMI) and their risk of developing kidney cancer.
A BMI score of 25 or above has been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing kidney cancer. Those with a a BMI score of 30 or above are at particularly high risk.
This may be because overweight or obese people, particularly women, have higher levels of a hormone called oestrogen in their body. It’s thought that excess levels of oestrogen may stimulate the growth of cancerous cells. Cases of kidney cancer have been increasing over the last 40 years, which has been linked to rising obesity levels.
Smoking is also a significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer, and the more you smoke the greater the risk. For example, research has shown that if you regularly smoke 10 cigarettes a day, you’re one-and-a-half times more likely to develop kidney cancer compared to a non-smoker. This increases to twice as likely if you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day. It’s not clear why smoking increases your chances of developing kidney cancer.
If you have a close family member (parents, brothers, sisters or a child) who’s been diagnosed with kidney cancer, you’re about twice as likely to develop kidney cancer yourself. Examples of inherited genetic conditions and syndromes that increase your risk of developing kidney cancer include:
There are also a number of other possible risk factors for developing kidney cancer, including:
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Source: NHS UK