Kidney cancer is a cancer that originates in the kidneys. The kidneys are located behind the abdominal organs, with one kidney on each side of the spine.
The most common type of kidney cancer in adults is renal cell carcinoma. Young children can develop a kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumor. There are other less common types of kidney cancer.
Early stage kidney cancer rarely causes symptoms. Symptoms of late stage kidney cancer include:
- Blood in the urine (pink, red or cola colored)
- Persistent back pain just below the ribs
- Weight loss
- Intermittent fever
The exact cause of renal cell carcinoma is unclear. However, it is known that kidney cancer begins when kidney cells develop mutations in their DNA. The mutation causes the cells to grow and divide rapidly and continue living when other healthy cells die. The accumulation of abnormal cells forms a tumor that can spread beyond the kidney. Some cells can spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body.
Risk factors for kidney cancer include:
- Older age
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Treatment for kidney failure such as long-term dialysis
- Certain inherited syndromes such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and familial papillary renal cell carcinoma.
The risk of kidney cancer can be reduced by:
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling high blood pressure