Learn More About Kidney Cancer

Cancers of the kidney are the 12th most common type and account for about 2.4 per cent of all cancers. Over half of kidney cancer cases occur in more developed countries, with the highest incidence rates in North American and Europe.

The kidneys are a pair of organs located at the back of the abdomen outside the peritoneal cavity. They filter waste products and water from the blood, producing urine, which empties into the bladder through the ureters.

AICR’S latest report on kidney cancer found that maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk. Consuming a moderate amount of alcohol may offer some protection against kidney cancer.

Lifestyle and Kidney Cancer Risk

Weight: Excess body fatness puts you at greater risk for gallbladder cancer.

  • Obesity is a known cause of gallstone formation and having gallstones increases the risk of gallbladder cancer.
  • Body fatness increases the levels of hormones circulating in the body – such as insulin and insulin-like growth factors – creating an environment that may encourage the development or progression of cancer in a variety of organs.
  • Body fat also stimulates a general inflammatory response, which may contribute to the development of several cancers.

Alcohol: Consumption of alcoholic drinks probably protects against kidney cancer.

  • This is based on evidence for alcohol intakes up to 30 grams per day (about two drinks a day).
  • The mechanisms that may explain the inverse relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and kidney cancer risk are uncertain.
  • Possible biological mechanisms proposed include improved blood lipid profiles among people who drink a moderate amount of alcohol and higher adiponectin levels.


  • Smoking is a cause of kidney cancer. Both current and former smokers have
    an increased risk of renal cell cancer compared to people who have never smoked
  • Male smokers have a 54 per cent increased risk and female smokers have a 22 per cent increased risk compared with those who have never smoked, and there is a strong dose-dependent increase in risk for both men and women.

Other Factors:

  • Adult-attained height: There is probable evidence that developmental factors leading to greater height may increase risk.
  • Arsenic in drinking water: There is also limited evidence that drinking water contaminated by arsenic may increase risk.
  • Medications: Painkillers containing phenacetin are known to cause cancer of the renal pelvis. Phenacetin is no longer used as an ingredient in painkillers.
  • Kidney disease: Polycystic kidney disease predisposes people to kidney cancer.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure is associated with higher risk of kidney cancer.