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 does not necessarily mean you will get kidney cancer, and people without risk factors can also develop cancer.
Most people who get kidney cancers do not have a family history of it. But your risk may be higher than average if a close relative has had kidney cancer.
Close relatives are your parents, brothers, sisters or children. Fewer than 1 in 20 kidney cancers (4%) are thought to be inherited.
Some rare genetic conditions can increase the risk of developing kidney cancer. These include:
- von Hippel-Lindau disease
- hereditary papillary RCC (HPRCC)
- Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome
- tuberous sclerosis.
Kidney cancers caused by an inherited gene change are more likely to happen at a younger age. They may cause several tumours, and can affect both kidneys.
An increased risk of kidney cancer has been linked to working with blast furnaces or coke ovens in the steel and coal industries.
Exposure to certain materials may also increase risk, such as those used in heavy engineering. These include:
- trichloroethylene (Tric).