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Am I At Risk for Kidney Cancer?

There is really no way to know for sure if you're going to get kidney cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 65,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer each year, and about 14,000 people die from the disease. Certain factors may make you more likely to get kidney cancer than another person. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean you will get the disease. In fact, you can have all the risk factors and not get kidney cancer, or you can have no known risk factors and still get it.

If you agree with any of the following bolded statements, you may be at an increased risk for developing kidney cancer. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as your age, gender, or family history. However, other risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, are factors you can control. Each time you agree with the statement, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to control that particular risk factor.

I am older than age 50.

Most kidney cancers occur in people who are 55 and older. Children and young adults rarely get this disease.

I am male.

You have a much higher chance of getting kidney cancer if you're male. This difference, however, may be largely due to the fact that men are more likely to smoke and be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals while at work.

I am an African-American.

African-Americans are at a slightly higher risk for kidney cancer. Research is still being done to understand this difference in cancer rates. 

I am a smoker.

Cigarette smoking increases your risk for kidney cancer. It is the main risk factor for renal cell kidney cancer. Your bloodstream absorbs many cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke. These chemicals become concentrated in the kidneys, which help to filter the blood. There they can damage kidney cell DNA, leading to cancer. The longer you smoke, the greater your risk. Once you quit smoking, your risk begins to go down.

I am obese.

Being very overweight may lead to hormonal changes in your body. This, in turn, increases your risk for kidney cancer.

I have high blood pressure.

People with high blood pressure have a higher risk for kidney cancer than the average person. It is not known whether the condition itself, the medications used to treat it, or both are the cause of this increased risk.

I have been exposed to workplace chemicals.

Exposure to certain chemicals and other workplace substances, such as asbestos, cadmium, herbicides, benzene, and organic solvents, put you at greater risk for kidney cancer.

I have kidney disease and get dialysis.

In advanced kidney disease, dialysis is a treatment used to remove toxins from your body since the kidneys can no longer do this effectively. This treatment may increase your risk for kidney cancer.

I have an inherited condition that puts me at risk.

People who inherit von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease are at higher risk for kidney cancer. VHL disease can cause multiple tumors in the kidneys, brain, spine, eyes, pancreas, and adrenal glands. Other inherited conditions linked to kidney cancer include Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, and hereditary leiomyomatosis. 

I have family members who have had kidney cancer.

People with a strong family history of kidney cancer (without one of the known inherited conditions listed above) have a two to four times higher chance of developing the disease. This risk is highest in brothers or sisters of those with the cancer. The cause of this is not clear. 


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