Kidney Tumours - The Facts

Kidney Tumours - The Facts

Originally published in September 2003 icon

There are 6,000 newly diagnosed cases of kidney cancer in the UK each year. That’s 16 new cases a day, or one every 90 minutes. It is the fastest growing cancer among women. The incidence of the disease in women has increased by 22 per cent over the last 10 years, overtaking female breast, skin and lung cancers - which have increased by 18, 15 and four per cent respectively over the same period.


Open quotesKidney Cancer is the fastest growing cancer among womenClose quotes


Symptoms of kidney cancer include blood in the urine, a mass or ache/pain in the loin, and sometimes anaemia, high temperatures and/or sweats. Symptoms can also be presented by metastases (secondary tumours) in other parts of the body. Some patients have no specific symptoms.Want to receive the very latest, hot information on this subject? Click here


There are several different types of kidney cancer. The most common, accounting for about 85 per cent of all kidney cancers is renal cell carcinoma (RCC), also known as renal adenocarcinoma or renal hypernephroma. In RCC, the malignant cells originate in the lining (epithelium) of the kidney’s tubules.

There are also different sub-types of RCC classified according to the particular characteristics of the cancer cells when examined under a microscope. These include clear cell (the most common type of RCC), chromophilic or papillary, chromophobic, oncocytic, collecting duct and sarcomatoid carcinoma. About six to seven per cent of kidney cancers originate in the renal pelvis, at the point where the kidney joins the ureter. These are known as transitional cell carcinomas. Wilms Tumour is a rare form of kidney cancer that affects children - usually between the ages of two and five.

Kidney cancer is most common in people over the age of 40. The causes are not yet fully understood, but these factors have been identified as increasing a person’s risk of developing the condition.


Smoking: As many as a third of all cases are estimated to be linked to smoking.

Exposure to chemicals in the workplace, such as asbestos, lead, cadmium and organic solvents (especially trichloroethylene), is a risk factor.

Obesity appears to increase the risk - especially for women. Patients undergoing kidney dialysis are at increased risk of developing kidney cysts and cancer.

People affected by specific inherited diseases have an increased risk. These include: Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, Hereditary Non-VHL Clear Cell Cancer and Hereditary Papillary Renal Cell Cancer.

The treatment of kidney cancer usually begins with a surgical operation (nephrectomy), which involves removing the affected kidney (and primary tumour) and sometimes the adrenal gland and surrounding lymph nodes. In some cases a partial nephrectomy may be recommended.

If there is evidence of spread of the disease to other parts of the body, the patient should be referred to a specialist oncologist for discussion of further treatment options.

Unlike most other cancers, kidney cancer does not respond particularly well to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Where the disease has spread, the best responses have been produced by biological therapy ("immunotherapy"), which seeks to stimulate the body’s own immune response. For this purpose, Interferon-alpha and/or Interleukin-2 are used.

Hormone therapy has been used to treat kidney cancer, but the results have been disappointing. There is growing interest in the use of kidney cancer vaccines. These are made in various ways, sometimes using cell lines from the patient’s, or another patient’s, tumour.


Open quotesKindey Cancer does not respond particularly well to chemotherapy or radiotherapyClose quotes


Anti-angiogenic drugs work by blocking the growth of blood vessels to the tumour.


If you have a kidney removed, you will suffer no ill effects as long as the other kidney is working normally. For good kidney health, try to:


  • Stop smoking

  • Cut down your salt intake

  • Avoid excessive doses of vitamin C in supplement form

  • Keep alcohol consumption to a moderate level

  • Drink plenty of pure water
    (Icon recommends glass bottled or reverse osmosis filtered water)



Thanks to Kidney Cancer UK (KCUK) for supplying this information


On 10th November 2003, Kidney Cancer UK will be launching a major campaign, New Light on Kidney Research, which aims to increase understanding of kidney cancer and the treatment options available to patients. It comprises a range of initiatives which aim to inform and empower those affected by cancer - including the launch of a new resource for recently diagnosed patients, 20 questions for kidney cancer patients to discuss with their doctor.

Copies are available free of charge from Kidney Cancer UK Helpline
Telephone: 024 7647 4993, Website:

2010 Research
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