What causes kidney cancer?

In all forms of cancer, the development of a tumour is triggered by abnormal changes (mutations) in particular genes within the body’s cells. The various factors that are linked to the genetic changes responsible for kidney cancer are still not fully understood, but certain risk factors are known to be associated with an increased tendency to develop kidney cancer:

  • Age and gender – tumours within the kidney have been found in any age group but are most common in people over 55, and they are more common in men than in women.
  • Lifestyle factors – the major risk factors for kidney cancer are obesity (70% increased risk) and cigarette smoking (50% increased risk). Cigarettes contain chemicals that damage the genes of kidney cells, called carcinogens.
  • Certain medical conditions and treatments – such as cystic kidney disease, dialysis, renal stones, hypertension, and previous radiotherapy to the tummy, can increase the likelihood of developing kidney cancer.
  • Inherited conditions – such as von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis and hereditary papillary RCC (HPRCC) can increase the risk of developing kidney cancer.