Kidney Cancer

Quick GuideCancer 101 Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Understanding Cancer

Cancer 101 Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Understanding Cancer

What are kidney cancer causes and risk factors?

When you get a diagnosis of kidney cancer, it's natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. Doctors usually can't explain why one person gets kidney cancer and another doesn't.

However, we do know that people with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop kidney cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease.

Studies have found the following risk factors for kidney cancer:

  • Smoking: Smoking tobacco is an important risk factor for kidney cancer. People who smoke have a higher risk than nonsmokers. The risk is higher for those who smoke more cigarettes or for a long time.
  • Obesity: Being obese increases the risk of kidney cancer.
  • High blood pressure: Having high blood pressure may increase the risk of kidney cancer.
  • Family history of kidney cancer: People with a family member who had kidney cancer have a slightly increased risk of the disease. Also, certain conditions that run in families can increase the risk of kidney cancer.
    • Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome: VHL is a rare disease that runs in some families. It's caused by changes in the VHL gene. People with a changed VHL gene have an increased risk of kidney cancer. They may also have cysts or tumors in the eyes, brain, or other parts of the body. Family members of those with VHL can have a test to check for a changed VHL gene.

Many people who get kidney cancer have none of these risk factors, and many people who have known risk factors don't develop the disease.

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