Causes and risk factors of ureter and renal pelvis cancer

We do not know exactly what causes ureter and renal pelvis cancer. But there are things that can increase your risk of getting it.

What are risk factors?

There are certain things that can affect the chances of developing cancer of the ureter or renal pelvis. These are called risk factors. Having a risk factor does not necessarily mean you will get ureter or renal pelvis cancer, and people without risk factors can also develop cancer.

If you are worried about ureter and renal pelvis cancer and would like to talk to someone, we're here. You can:


Cancers of the ureter and renal pelvis are more common in men than women.


The risk of cancer of the ureter and renal pelvis increases with age. They are rare under the age of 65.


Smoking cigarettes is one of the main risk factors for this type of cancer.

Exposure to certain chemicals at work

An increased risk of cancer of the ureter and renal pelvis has been linked to working with certain chemicals. These include industrial dyes, plastics, coal, tar and asphalt.

Painkillers and other drugs

People who have kidney damage from long-term use of certain painkillers may have a higher risk of developing cancer in the renal pelvis. This risk is highest in people who were overexposed to painkillers containing phenacetin. These painkillers are no longer sold. But phenacetin may be added to some illegal recreational drugs such as cocaine, so regular users could still be at risk.

Other risk factors

Some people in Balkan countries can be affected by a form of kidney damage called Balkan nephropathy. This increases the risk of renal pelvis cancer. A rare condition called Lynch syndrome also increases the risk of developing cancer of the ureter and renal pelvis. People with this condition usually have several relatives on the same side of the family who have developed cancers, such as bowel and womb cancers, at an early age.