About Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, is a cancer that starts in the kidneys, the two bean-shaped organs located about midway down the back, on each side of the backbone. The kidneys perform the essential job of filtering excess water, salt, and waste to create urine and release important hormones. It is possible to live with only one kidney.
Not all kidney cancers are identical. Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), also known as renal cell cancer or renal cell adenocarcinoma, is the most common form of kidney cancer, responsible for more than three-quarters of all cases. Clear cell renal cell carcinoma is the most common form, or subtype, of RCC. Papillary RCC, also known as Type 1 papillary renal cell carcinoma, is the second most common form, with an increased incidence in African Americans for unknown reasons. Another type of kidney cancer is transitional cell carcinoma. It is a rare form of kidney cancer that can affect the kidney, ureter, and bladder, and it is treated with a nephroureterectomy (removal of the ureter and kidney). This can be performed via minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery. Other forms of RCC include chromophobe and renal oncocytoma (benign kidney tumor). Different subtypes behave differently with respect to spread and response to treatment. Wilm’s tumor is a childhood form of kidney cancer. Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. The American Cancer Society forecasts that there were about 64,770 new cases of kidney cancer (40,250 in men and 24,520 in women) in the United States in 2012. A person’s risk of developing kidney cancer in their lifetime is about 1 in 67 (1.49 percent). Men are at greater risk than women. Kidney cancer is uncommon in people younger than age 45. The average age of diagnosis is 64.
Kidney Cancer Risk Factors
There is no way to know for certain if you will develop kidney cancer. However, a variety of lifestyle- and occupation-related factors may make you more likely to develop kidney cancer, including if you:
- Smoke cigarettes or use tobacco in any form
- Are very overweight (obese)
- Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Have a family history of kidney cancer or certain conditions, like Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease and hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma
- Are exposed to certain chemicals in the workplace, among them cadmium (a type of metal), asbestos, some herbicides, benzene, and organic solvents
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