A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having 1 or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least 1 risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing kidney cancer include:
- genetic (inherited) conditions, including von Hippel–Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma renal cell carcinoma, Birt–Hogg–Dubé syndrome, familial renal cancer and hereditary renal oncocytoma (the kidney tumours in people with this condition are unually benign)
- family history of kidney cancer – that is, someone in the family has had kidney cancer but without 1 of the genetic conditions listed above
- high blood pressure
- exposure to certain chemicals, including cadmium, some herbicides and some organic solvents (especially trichloroethylene)
- misuse of certain types of pain medicines over a long period
- advanced kidney disease, especially where this requires the use of dialysis (a procedure that uses a machine outisde the body to perform the blood-cleaning functions of the kidneys)
- sex of the patient – renal cell cancer is about twice as common in men as in women.
Find out more about:
- Lifestyle and risk reduction
- Position Statement on Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer
American Cancer Society (2015). Kidney cancer http://www.cancer.org/cancer/kidneycancer/detailedguide/index.
National Cancer Institute (2015). Renal cell cancer treatment (PDQ®) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/renalcell/Patient, patient version.