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Cancer Snapshots: Disease Focused and Other Snapshots

  • Posted: 12/02/2013

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A Snapshot of Kidney Cancer

Incidence and Mortality

Kidney cancer incidence has increased over the past several decades, but recent data suggest that incidence rates may be reaching a plateau. The increase in incidence since the 1990s reflects a rapid increase in early-stage disease that has been attributed in part to incidental diagnosis during abdominal imaging and may not represent a true increase in cancer occurrence. The overall mortality rate from kidney cancer remained relatively steady over much of the past two decades but recently has begun to decrease. Kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates are more than twice as high in men as in women. American Indians/Alaska Natives have higher kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates than any other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

The main risk factors for kidney cancer are smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and having certain inherited conditions. There are no recommended screening tests for kidney cancer. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can be used to look for kidney cancer in people with genetic conditions that place them at high risk. Standard treatments for kidney cancer include surgery, embolization, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy.

It is estimated that approximately $3.8 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on kidney cancer treatment.

Line graphs showing U.S. Kidney Cancer Incidence and mortality per 100,000, by race and ethnicity, between 1990-2010.  In 2010, African American males have the highest incidence, followed by white males, African American females, and white females.  In 2010, white males have the highest mortality followed by African American males, white females, and African American females.

Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Kidney Cancer

Selected Advances in Kidney Cancer Research

Pie chart of NCI Kidney Cancer Research Portfolio.  Percentage of total dollars by scientific area.  Fiscal year 2012.  Biology, 18%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 13%.  Prevention, 1%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 17%.  Treatment, 37%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 8%.  Scientific model systems, 6%.
  • African-American patients with renal cell carcinoma had poorer survival rates than whites regardless of sex, age, time period of diagnosis, tumor stage or size, histological subtype, or surgical treatment. Published November 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
  • The natural plant extract, englerin A, activates a protein that promotes glucose dependence while inhibiting glucose uptake, effectively starving renal cancer cells. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Racial/ethnic differences affect the risk of developing kidney or prostate cancer after a kidney transplant. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Although findings from animal experiments suggested that sunitinib may promote tumor invasiveness, patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma showed no such effect; thus sunitinib, and probably similar drugs, do not accelerate tumor growth in humans. Published February 2013. [Pubmed Abstract]
  • See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to kidney cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.

Trends in NCI Funding for Kidney Cancer Research

The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment2 in kidney cancer research increased from $43.4 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $49.0 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $7.6 million in FY 2009 and FY 2010 in kidney cancer research using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Bar graph of NCI Kidney Cancer Research Investment in 2008-2012: Fiscal year (FY) 2008, $43.4 million Kidney Cancer Funding of $4.83 billion Total NCI Budget. FY 2009, $45.2 million Kidney Cancer Funding of $4.97 billion Total NCI Budget. FY 2010, $44.6 million Kidney Cancer Funding of $5.10 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2011, $46.2 million Kidney Cancer Funding of $5.06 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2012, $49.0 million Kidney Cancer Funding of $5.07 billion Total NCI Budget.

Additional Resources for Kidney Cancer


  • 1 Cancer Trends Progress Report, in 2010 dollars.
  • 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.