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Kidney Cancer

  • Posted: 01/19/2011

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Risk Factors

When you get a diagnosis of kidney cancer, it’s natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. Doctors usually can’t explain why one person gets kidney cancer and another doesn’t.

However, we do know that people with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop kidney cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease.

Studies have found the following risk factors for kidney cancer:

  • Smoking: Smoking tobacco is an important risk factor for kidney cancer. People who smoke have a higher risk than nonsmokers. The risk is higher for those who smoke more cigarettes or for a long time.
  • Obesity: Being obese increases the risk of kidney cancer.
  • High blood pressure: Having high blood pressure may increase the risk of kidney cancer.
  • Family history of kidney cancer: People with a family member who had kidney cancer have a slightly increased risk of the disease. Also, certain conditions that run in families can increase the risk of kidney cancer.
    • Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome: VHL is a rare disease that runs in some families. It’s caused by changes in the VHL gene. People with a changed VHL gene have an increased risk of kidney cancer. They may also have cysts or tumors in the eyes, brain, or other parts of the body. Family members of those with VHL can have a test to check for a changed VHL gene.

Many people who get kidney cancer have none of these risk factors, and many people who have known risk factors don’t develop the disease.

How to Quit Tobacco

Quitting is important for anyone who uses tobacco. Quitting at any time is beneficial to your health.

For people who already have kidney cancer, quitting may reduce the chance of getting another type of cancer (such as lung, esophagus, or oral cancer), lung disease, or heart disease. Quitting may also help cancer treatments work better.

There are many ways to get help:

  • Ask your doctor about medicine or nicotine replacement therapy. Your doctor can suggest a number of treatments that help people quit.
  • Ask your doctor or dentist to help you find local programs or trained professionals who help people stop using tobacco.
  • Call NCI’s Smoking Quitline at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1–877–448–7848) or instant message us through LiveHelp. We can tell you about:
    • Ways to quit smoking
    • Groups that help smokers who want to quit
    • NCI publications about quitting smoking
    • How to take part in a study of methods to help smokers quit
  • Go online to Smokefree.gov, a Federal Government Web site. It offers a guide to quitting smoking and a list of other resources.

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