7 Causes of Renal Cell Carcinoma: Who’s at Risk?

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  • Exact Cause Unknown

    Exact Cause Unknown

    Of all the types of kidney cancer that adults can develop, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) occurs the most often.

    According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), RCC accounts for about 90 percent of diagnosed kidney cancers. But the cause of this challenging condition still remains unknown.

    What is known, however, are risk factors that could increase your chance of developing kidney cancer.  Click through the slideshow to learn what they are.


  • Age and Gender as Risk Factors

    Age and Gender as Risk Factors

    The Mayo Clinic reports that while the exact cause of RCC is unknown, medical experts do know the risk factors for kidney cancer.

    Age: People have a greater chance of developing renal cell carcinoma as they get older.

    Gender: According to ACS, males have double the chance of having RCC compared to females.


  • The Genetic Connection

    The Genetic Connection

    Genetics can play a role in your chances of developing renal cell carcinoma.  A few rare conditions that can be inherited put you at higher risk for developing RCC.

    One such condition includes Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which causes patients to develop tumors in more than one part of their body.

    Another inherited condition that predisposes you to RCC is called hereditary papillary RCC. This disorder is linked to changes in certain genes.


  • What’s Your History?

    What’s Your History?

    Even if you don’t have any of the inherited conditions that have been shown to cause RCC, your family history may be a risk factor for the disease.

    ACS estimates that if someone in your family is known to have had RCC, then your chances for developing kidney cancer could be up to four times greater.  This risk has been proven to be particularly strong if your sibling has the condition.


  • Lifestyle Links

    Lifestyle Links

    While you can’t control your age, gender, or genes, you can control other risk factors for RCC. Some risk factors are related to your lifestyle habits.  

    According to the Mayo Clinic, smokers have a greater chance of having kidney cancer than those who don’t smoke.

    If you quit smoking, your risk of developing the condition can be greatly reduced.


  • Obesity and RCC

    Obesity and RCC

    ACS reports that being extremely overweight may account for around 20 percent of renal cell carcinoma cases.

    The reason that obesity may cause the disease is that it can lead to abnormal hormone changes. These changes ultimately put obese people at higher risk for RCC than those of normal weight.

  • High Blood Pressure, Higher Risk

    High Blood Pressure, Higher Risk

    Blood pressure is also a risk factor for kidney cancer. When you have high blood pressure, you have a greater chance of developing RCC, according to ACS.

    One unknown factor about this risk factor relates to high blood pressure medicine. ACS suggests that specific high blood pressure drugs may be linked to increased risk for RCC.

    However, it’s uncertain whether the increased risk is really due to the medicine, or to having hypertension. Some researchers believe that the combination of both factors leads to a heightened risk.

  • Do What You Can

    Do What You Can

    While having one or more risk factors for kidney disease may increase your chances of having the condition, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically develop renal cell carcinoma.

    Still, it’s always good to make lifestyle changes that help decrease your risk.  Quitting smoking, watching your weight, and managing your blood pressure are all-around healthy choices that could help protect your kidneys.

    If you have a hereditary risk factor for RCC, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may want to perform tests to help rule out or confirm a diagnosis.