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Kidney Cancer Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

Some people's particular habits, activities, lifestyles, or genetics make them more susceptible to certain forms of cancer. Several risk factors, below, have been identified as increasing the risk of developing kidney cancer.

  • Smoking and Kidney Cancer: Cigarette smoking has been shown to double the risk of kidney cancer and contributes to as many as one-third of the cases.
  • Obesity, Diet and Kidney Cancer: Obesity and a high fat diet raises the risk of kidney cancer, according to some studies.
  • Workplace Exposure and Kidney Cancer: Exposure in the workplace to chemicals including petroleum products, heavy metals, cadmium (in batteries, paints, or welding materials), or asbestos can increase the risk of kidney cancer.
  • Certain Genes and Kidney Cancer: Changes in certain genes (either inherited or affected by environmental factors) can increase the risk of developing kidney tumors.
  • Certain Disorders and Kidney Cancer: People with disorders such as von Hippel Lindau (VHL) syndrome caused by an inherited gene mutation; polycystic disorders affecting the kidneys, liver or pancreas; or those on long-term dialysis, are at an increased risk for developing kidney cancer.

Warning Signs of Kidney Cancer

Because routine imaging tests are now relatively common in the U.S., most people with kidney cancer never experience any symptoms and are diagnosed with the disease at an early stage. If symptoms do develop, the most common one is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include: lower back pain that does not go away; a lump in the abdomen; fatigue; loss of appetite and rapid weight loss for no apparent reason; fever unrelated to a cold, flu, or other infection; swollen ankles and legs; high blood pressure; low red blood cell counts (anemia).