Smoking is a known factor in developing kidney cancer, especially if you have other health conditions that affect your kidneys.

Smoking can often create long lasting health effects that extend beyond respiratory conditions. From emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to a link with diabetes and even back pain, there are plenty of solid reasons to consider quitting.

Smoking and cancer are also closely associated. While lung cancer may come to mind first, the reality is that tobacco use has been directly connected to a variety of cancers, including kidney cancer.

Yes, smoking tobacco does cause kidney cancer.

Smoking is a confirmed contributing factor to kidney cancer. According to the National Kidney Foundation, smoking influences how the body functions, ultimately encouraging the development of cancer cells.

Smoking can also reduce how effectively medications work. For people with high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking can cause medications not to work properly. Poorly managed hypertension can then occur.

Similarly, tobacco use can slow blood flow to critical organs, including the kidneys. For people with kidney disease, organ function is greatly impacted. People with other chronic conditions, like diabetes, are also at risk of kidney damage if they smoke.

All of this can raise your risk of kidney cancer.

Does secondhand smoke cause kidney cancer?

Although smokers have the biggest risk of tobacco-related kidney cancer, other people are also at risk.

Research suggests that even being exposed to tobacco smoke, known as secondhand smoke, can also increase a person’s risk of developing kidney cancer.

Does smoking cannabis cause kidney cancer?

Given that cannabis use continues to be legalized across the United States, many people are curious about the health implications of recreational and medicinal cannabis use.

Although research into cannabis use and its health effects is still in the early phases, studies tend to suggest that cannabis doesn’t always pose the same risk as tobacco.

For example, a 2022 study aimed to discover a link between cannabis use and urological cancers. This includes prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.

The study included over 150,000 people of various ages from the United Kingdom who had confirmed cannabis use between 2006 and 2010. Researchers found that rather than encourage cancer development, cannabis use tended to reduce the risk of a person developing kidney and prostate cancer in males.

In females, however, cannabis use did trend with increased cancer diagnoses. Researchers hypothesize that the different functions of cannabis and cancer development could be due to sex hormone mechanisms.

However, researchers note that further studies are needed to better understand how cannabis influences health outcomes in different people.

On the other hand, a 2020 study suggests that while cancer patients often widely report using cannabis to manage symptoms, caution should be exercised in people with kidney disease.

Researchers found that while cannabis use doesn’t normally significantly impair kidney function in healthy people, for those with chronic kidney disease or end stage renal disease, cannabis should be used in low doses to reduce the risk of complications with prescription medications.

Specific statistics regarding smokers developing kidney cancer aren’t readily available. But the evidence that is available supports that smoking is a direct contributor to cancer.

A 2021 study investigated how likely people were to develop cancer by age 80 years. Study participants included smokers and nonsmokers. Researchers estimated that by age 80, 48.3% of smokers would develop cancer compared with 41.1% of the nonsmoking cohort.

According to a 2023 study, roughly 15–20% of all kidney cancer patients are active smokers at diagnosis.

As with many diseases, there are early signs of kidney cancer.

For earlier stages, there typically aren’t any symptoms or signs. As the cancer progresses, symptoms can begin to occur.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with a doctor:

Quitting smoking is an important goal, no matter your underlying health.

If you have kidney cancer, research suggests quitting smoking can help slow disease progression and improve outcomes.

A long-term study published in 2023 included 212 people with kidney cancer who were active smokers.

Participants were recruited between 2007 and 2016. They completed routine follow-up surveys through 2020 focusing on disease progression and smoking status.

Researchers found that disease progression and cancer-specific rates of death were worse in the smoking cohort than in the group that quit smoking.

However, quitting smoking alone can’t predict your outlook. It depends on other health factors, cancer stage, and treatment. Your doctor can work with you to determine your personal outlook and ways to improve it.

While it’s well known that smoking can cause lung and oral cancers, smoking can also increase your risk of kidney cancer.

Quitting smoking can not only help prevent kidney cancer but also help improve your outlook if you already have cancer.

If you want to learn more about changing your relationship with tobacco, check out this article.