Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the United States, affecting more than 600,000 people. Some people may have a higher risk.

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Though not as common as skin, breast, prostate, or lung cancer, kidney cancer still affects millions of people worldwide.

Keep reading to learn more about the effects of kidney cancer, who’s most at risk, and what the outlook looks like for people who receive a diagnosis.

Language matters

We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms used in the studies cited. But your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this disease. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into risk factors, diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment.

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Kidney cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in the United States and the 14th most common cancer in the world. The United States has the 7th highest kidney cancer rate in the world, more than double the global rate.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there will be 81,800 new kidney cancer diagnoses in the United States in 2023.

More than 600,000 U.S. people were living with kidney cancer in 2020, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

There are different types of kidney cancers, but renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common. There are also several subtypes of RCC.

What are the odds of getting kidney cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 46 U.S. men will develop kidney cancer in their lifetime, while about 1 in 80 women will develop it.


Your risk of kidney cancer increases with age up to age 75.

Diagnoses most frequently occur in people ages 65 to 74, with 70% occurring between ages 45 and 74.


In the United States, kidney cancer is more common among Black people than in other racial groups. The reasons for this aren’t well understood but may have to do with higher rates of known risk factors.

According to a 2018 research review, even though African Americans often detect kidney cancer earlier, they still have worse outcomes.

American Indian and Alaska Native populations also have higher rates of kidney cancer. Non-Hispanic Asians and Pacific Islanders have the lowest rates.

Sex and gender

People assigned male at birth are twice as likely to get kidney cancer as those assigned female at birth. Researchers don’t quite understand why, but it may be related to genetics, hormones, and life experiences.

A 2021 study found that kidney cancer affected about 4.1% of transgender people in the National Cancer Database. That was slightly lower than the rate for cisgender males (4.8%) but higher than the rate for cisgender females (2.7%). The study also noted that transgender people were less likely to receive timely care.

Genetics and family history

Your genes might influence your risk of kidney cancer. You may have an inherited condition like von Hippel-Lindau disease that increases your risk.

Your risk is also higher if you have a close relative (especially a sibling) with kidney cancer. It’s unclear whether this is due to genetics, your environment, or both.

Modifiable risk factors

Risk factors that may be within your control include:

Early symptoms of kidney cancer

Kidney cancer, in its early stages, often doesn’t cause any symptoms. More advanced kidney cancer may cause:

These symptoms are most often signs of other, less serious conditions. Reviewing your symptoms with a doctor can help identify the cause.

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Kidney cancer affects people of all ages but is most common among older adults. Only 8.6% of new diagnoses occur in people younger than age 45.

Still, kidney cancer can affect children or teenagers. Kidney cancer makes up about 5% of all childhood cancers. Wilms tumors are the most common kidney cancer in children.

The younger you are at diagnosis, the better your survival odds. The 5-year survival rate is higher for younger age groups.

Your outlook with kidney cancer is better if it hasn’t spread to other organs. But the growth rate of kidney cancer can be highly variable.

According to a 2021 study and literature review, most kidney cancers grow about 0.1–1 centimeters (cm) per year. But some grow as much as 19 cm per year.

How fast kidney cancer spreads may also depend on the type of kidney cancer. For example, papillary RCC may be less likely to spread to distant organs like the lung and brain than clear cell RCC. Collecting duct RCC is a rare but more aggressive type of kidney cancer that spreads very quickly.

Is kidney cancer usually caught early?

About two-thirds of kidney cancers are found early. Still, others are more advanced by the time doctors detect them.

There are several reasons doctors might miss kidney cancer until it’s more advanced:

  • Early kidney cancers often don’t cause symptoms.
  • Doctors can’t detect kidney tumors in a physical exam because your kidneys are deep inside your body.
  • There are no regular screening tests for kidney cancer if you’re not someone with a higher risk.
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Your outlook with kidney cancer depends on many factors, including:

According to the ACS, the 5-year survival rates for kidney cancer are as follows:

  • 93% for cancer that has not spread beyond the kidneys
  • 72% for cancer that has spread to nearby structures like lymph nodes
  • 15% for cancer that has spread to distant organs and tissues

The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people with the disease who are still alive after 5 years compared with people who don’t have the disease.

Kidney cancer is often curable if it’s limited to the kidney and surrounding structures. Treatment will usually involve:

In some cases, treatment may also involve radiation and chemotherapy.

While some of the risk factors for kidney cancer may not be within your control, you can still act on the things that are.

Experts recommend the following tips for reducing your kidney cancer risk:

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the United States. It usually affects older adults, with the median age of diagnosis being age 65.

Groups at greater risk include:

  • non-Hispanic Blacks, American Indians, and Alaska Natives
  • people assigned male at birth
  • people with a family history of kidney cancer

Regardless of your risk, you can take steps to reduce your chances of developing kidney cancer and improve your overall kidney health. You might start by adjusting your diet and avoiding smoking.