A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop kidney cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. Most people with these risk factors never develop kidney cancer. However, in general, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing a disease. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for kidney cancer include the following:

Smoking

Substances in cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products have been shown to cause kidney cancer. The body absorbs the cancer-causing chemicals into the bloodstream. When the kidneys filter the blood, they are exposed to high concentrations of these chemicals, which can lead to cancer. Your chance of developing kidney cancer is increased 40% if you smoke cigarettes.

Obesity

Being overweight can increase the risk of kidney cancer. Obesity may alter hormone levels associated with kidney cancer.

Genetic Factors

A tendency to develop certain types of renal cell cancer may be inherited (that is, may run in families). These include kidney cancer associated with Von Hippel-Lindau disease , a hereditary disorder in which people are prone to renal cell carcinoma and a number of other types of tumors.

Gender

Males are more likely than females to develop renal cancer. This may be related to men historically being more likely to have occupational exposure to toxins and to smoke.

Diet

Meat that is cooked to "well done" may possibly increase the risk of kidney cancer. The reason for this is unknown.

Age

Kidney cancer occurs more frequently after age 50.

Environmental Toxins

Exposure to asbestos, organic solvents, and the metal cadmium may increase your risk of kidney cancer.

Medical Conditions

Several medical conditions that involve kidney function may increase your risk. These include the following:

  • High blood pressure —Doctors are not sure if it is high blood pressure or some of the drugs used to treat the condition that increases the risk.
  • Kidney failure and the need for dialysis