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The causes of kidney cancer are unknown, but research is going on to try to find out more. There are certain things that can affect the chances of developing kidney cancer. These are called risk factors.
Having a risk factor doesn't necessarily mean you'll get kidney cancer.
The risk of kidney cancer increases with age and most cases happen in people over 60.
The longer a person smokes and the more tobacco they smoke, the greater their risk of developing kidney cancer. Risk goes down when a person stops smoking.
Studies show that people who are overweight have an increased risk of developing kidney cancer.
Some medical conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), may increase the risk of kidney cancer. People with advanced kidney disease, especially those who need treatment to replace what a kidney does (dialysis), have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
Most kidney cancers aren’t inherited. However, people who have one or more first degree relatives (parent, brother, sister or child) with kidney cancer may have a higher than average risk of getting kidney cancer.
Some rare genetic conditions where people have an inherited faulty gene can increase the risk of developing kidney cancer. These include von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma (HPRCC) and Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome.
Kidney cancers that happen because of an inherited faulty gene are more likely to cause several tumours, affect both kidneys and happen at a younger age.
Exposure to certain materials at work, such as cadmium, lead or asbestos, may affect a person’s risk. An increased risk of kidney cancer has been linked to working with blast furnaces or coke ovens in the steel and coal industries. It has also been linked to working with Trichloroethylene (Tric), a petroleum by-product used in the heavy engineering industry.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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