Am I at Risk for Kidney Cancer?

There is really no way to know for sure if you're going to get kidney cancer. Certain factors can make you more likely to get kidney cancer than another person. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean you will get the disease. In fact, you can have all the risk factors and not get kidney cancer, or you can have no known risk factors and still get it.

If you agree with any of the following bolded statements, you may be at an increased risk for developing kidney cancer. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as your gender or family history. However, other risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, are factors you have control over. Each time you agree with the statement, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to control that particular risk factor.

I am older than age 50.

Most kidney cancers occur in people between ages 55 and 84. Children and young adults rarely get this disease.

I am male.

You have a much higher chance of getting kidney cancer. This difference, however, may be largely due to the fact that men are more likely to be smokers and to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

I am an African American.

African Americans are at higher risk for kidney cancer than are whites.

I am a smoker.

Cigarette smoking increases your risk for kidney cancer. It is the main risk factor for transitional cell kidney cancer. Through your lungs, your bloodstream absorbs many cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke. These chemicals become concentrated in the kidneys, which filter blood. There, they can damage kidney cell DNA, leading to cancer. The longer you smoke, the greater your risk. Once you quit smoking, your risk begins to go down.

I am obese.

Being very overweight may lead to hormonal changes in your body. This, in turn, increases your risk for kidney cancer.

I have high blood pressure.

People with high blood pressure have a higher risk than the average person's. It is not known whether the condition itself or the medications used to treat it are the cause of this increased risk. Diuretics are one type of medication used to treat high blood pressure. They help the kidneys remove salt and fluid from the body.

I have been exposed to workplace chemicals.

Chemicals and other workplace substances, such as asbestos, cadmium, herbicides, benzene, and organic solvents, put you at greater risk for kidney cancer. For example, coke oven workers in the iron and steel industry may be at increased risk.

I have kidney disease and get dialysis.

With advanced kidney disease, dialysis is a treatment used to remove toxins from your body when the kidneys can no longer do this effectively. This treatment may increase your risk for kidney cancer.

I have an inherited condition that puts me at risk.

Between 25% and almost 50% of people with von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease develop kidney cancer. VHL happens in about one in every 36,000 births and tends to run in families. VHL disease usually causes multiple tumors in the kidneys, brain, spine, eyes, pancreas, inner ear, and adrenal glands. The cancers linked to this disease usually show up early in life. Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma also puts you at greater risk for another type of kidney cancer. Other inherited conditions linked to kidney cancer include Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome and hereditary leiomyomatosis.

A member of my family has had kidney cancer.

If one or more of your close relatives, especially a brother or sister, has had kidney cancer, you have a greater risk for the disease.

Medical Reviewer: [Alteri, Rick MD, Appleman, Leonard J. MD, Sara Foster, RN, MPH, Wood, Laura RN, MSN, OCN] Last Annual Review Date: 2009-11-11T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © 2007 CancerSource, 280 Summer Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

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