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By Karen Alexander

Oncology Wellness Specialist on 03/03/2017

Kidney Cancer & Lifestyle

In 2016, there were 62,700 new cases of kidney cancer, representing 3.7 percent of all new cancer cases. 1 in 63 adult Americans will develop kidney cancer during their lifetime. Its incidence has increased rapidly over recent years. The causes seem to be multifactorial, including some non-modifiable risk factors like height and genetic predisposition, modifiable risk factors such as smoking, weight, alcohol consumption, exposure to chemicals (including pesticides and anti-pressure medicines), and other factors including chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and advanced kidney disease.  

Modifiable Risk Factors

Smoking: Current smokers have a 52 percent increased risk of kidney cancer and ex-smokers a 25 percent increased risk, compared to those who have never smoked.

Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of kidney cancer. Weight gain can increase your risk up to 30 percent, and an increase in weight-to-hip ratio can increase your risk up to 26 percent. Additionally, there is an 11 percent increased risk for every 10 cm increase in waist circumference.

Alcohol: Consuming more than 2 drinks per day increases your risk of kidney cancer.

Workplace Exposures: People exposed to cadmium (a type of metal) and organic solvents like trichloroethylene have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer. Many pesticides are carcinogenic, (e.g., organochlorines, creosote, and sulfallate) while others (notably the organochlorines DDT, chlordane, and lindane) are tumor promoters. Most of these chemicals are excreted by the kidneys, and exposure is connected with increased kidney cancer risk.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

Height: Risk of kidney cancer increases 23 percent for every 10 cm increase in height.

Genetic and Hereditary Diseases: These include polycystic kidney disease, von Hippel-Lindau disease, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, hereditary leiomyoma-renal cell carcinoma, Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome, familial renal cancer and hereditary renal oncocytoma.

Other Factors

High Blood Pressure and Anti-Hypertension Drugs: It is not clear if having high blood pressure or taking certain medicines to treat high blood pressure is what increases risk of kidney cancer. If you need to take medicine for high blood pressure, don’t avoid them to try and reduce your risk of kidney cancer. You still need to treat your blood pressure. Instead, follow the guidelines from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the USDA for lowering your blood pressure. They suggest adhering to the DASH Eating Pattern. http://dashdiet.org/default.asp

Advanced Kidney Disease: People with advanced kidney disease, especially those in need of dialysis, have a higher risk of get kidney cancer.

4 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Kidney Cancer:

Maintain a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercising most days of the week.
Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. If you do not drink alcohol regularly, do not start now. Alcohol can increase your risk for other cancers, such as breast, bowel, liver, esophageal and mouth cancers.
Quit smoking.
Reduce your exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

At Ackerman Cancer Center we care about our patients and families, and want them to live a cancer-free, healthier life and be more comfortable with their weight. If you need support to help achieve your weight goals, consider the ‘12 Week Challenge’ from the American Institute of Cancer Research. If you are interested in learning more about the 12 Week Challenge, click here. To enroll, please click here.  

For tips on lowering your blood pressure, visit:

Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure, from the US Department of Health & Human Services

DASH Eating Plan

If you need help quitting smoking, visit:

Tobacco Free Florida

Quit Now - Florida


All my best!

Karen Ambrosio, OWS

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