What Is the Most Common Type of Renal Cell Carcinoma?

Medically Reviewed on 11/5/2021
Renal cell carcinoma
Clear cell carcinoma is the most common type of renal cell carcinoma, which accounts for 75 to 85 percent of all RCC cases.

The most common type of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is called clear cell carcinoma.

It is called “clear cell” carcinoma because the tumor cells have a pale or clear appearance on microscopic examination.

  • Clear cell carcinoma accounts for about 75 to 85 percent of RCC cases.
  • It arises from structures called the proximal convoluted tubule in the kidneys, which give the tumors a rich blood supply.

Clear cell carcinoma is highly vascular and tends to bleed, grow, and spread quickly. It is generally seen in individuals older than 50 years and may be associated with other conditions, such as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.

The identification of the type of RCC based on histopathologic or microscopic examination helps predict the disease outlook (prognosis) and plan proper treatment. Histologic classification helps look for other conditions that may coexist with the tumor.

Other types of RCC include:

  • Papillary or chromophilic carcinoma (10 to 15 percent)
  • Chromophobe carcinoma (5 to 10 percent)
  • Oncocytic carcinoma or oncocytoma (three to seven percent)
  • Collecting duct (Bellini) tumors (very rare)
  • Translocation RCC (rare)
  • Multilocular cystic RCC
  • Unclassified tumors (about five percent)

What is renal cell carcinoma?

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), previously called hypernephroma or Grawitz tumor, is the most common type of cancer that originates in the kidneys (primary renal neoplasm). It accounts for about 80 to 85 percent of all primary cancer of the kidney.

Other types of primary cancer of the kidney include:

  • transitional cell carcinoma (about eight percent),
  • Wilms tumor (nephroblastoma), and
  • renal sarcoma.

RCC generally affects older individuals (50 to 70 years of age) and is almost two times as common in men than in women. It causes about 76,000 new cases with almost 14,000 deaths each year in the United States.

What are the signs and symptoms of renal cell carcinoma?

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is often asymptomatic in most people until it has reached an advanced stage.

In just 10 percent of the cases, this cancer may present in its typical form (called the classic triad) that consists of the following:

Hematuria may not always be visible to the naked eye (gross hematuria). In most cases, the blood cells are seen in urine on microscopic examination (microscopic hematuria). Some people may pass blood clots in urine.

Other signs and symptoms of RCC include:

What are the risk factors for renal cell carcinoma?

Some of the factors that may increase the risk of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) include:

  • Non-modifiable risk factors (factors that you cannot change):
    • Male gender
    • Older age (more than 50 years)
    • People of ethnicities other than Asian American and Pacific Islander descent
    • Certain kidney diseases such as chronic kidney disease and kidney stones
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Childhood cancer survivors
    • Genetic factors
  • Modifiable risk factors (factors that you can change):


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Medically Reviewed on 11/5/2021
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