Your kidneys are vital organs designed to keep your body clean and chemically balanced. Each of your two kidneys is about the size of your fist, and they are located below your rib cage near the middle of your back.
Your kidneys filter about 200 quarts of blood per day, removing approximately 2 quarts of waste and extra water in the process. The waste and excess water are excreted as urine into the bladder where they are stored until urination occurs.
Kidney cancer can occur when cells displaying uncontrolled growth, metastasis (spread), or invasion arise in the tissues of the kidneys. Cells displaying these qualities will form a structure known as a tumor.
Benign tumors may also develop in the kidneys. A benign tumor is a growth that does not destroy adjacent tissues, or invade into adjacent tissues. Some benign tumors are asymptomatic. These tumors are usually located during an unrelated exam. In other cases, a benign tumor can cause severe symptoms similar to the symptoms associated with a cancerous (malignant) kidney tumor.
Kidney Cancer Risk Factors
Most kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. These cancers develop in the lining of the kidney’s nephrons. Each of you kidneys has about a million nephrons. They are tiny tubes, or capillaries that filter the blood and remove waste.
Kidney Cancer Risk Factors associated with renal cell carcinomas include:
- Gender: Men develop more renal cell carcinomas than women.
- Age: Renal cell carcinoma primarily affects people over the age of 60.
- Obesity: People who are obese are more likely to develop renal cell carcinoma than people at a healthy weight.
- Tobacco Use: Using tobacco forces your kidneys to process harmful toxins. These toxins may cause cellular mutations that lead to cancer.
- Hypertension, or High Blood Pressure: Research indicates a link between renal cell carcinoma development and high blood pressure. The reason for this link remains unknown. Some research suggests that it is actually the medication used to treat the high blood pressure that leads to kidney cancer, not the high blood pressure itself.
- Chemical Exposure: Asbestos, cadmium, and trichloroethylene have been shown to increase renal cell carcinoma risk. Always ask your employer about the harmful chemicals in your workplace.
- Family History: If you have a family member with kidney cancer, you are more likely to develop the disease yourself.
HEREDITARY RISK FACTORS
- Hereditary Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma: This inherited condition greatly increases your renal cell carcinoma risk. Hereditary Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma does not cause tumor development in other parts of the body. It is specific to renal cell carcinoma development.
- Von Hippel-Lindau Disease: This condition causes people to develop several different kinds of tumors and cysts (fluid-filled sacs) throughout the body. Mutations in the VHL gene cause this condition. Young people with Von Hippel-Lindau Disease are especially susceptible to renal cell carcinoma development.
- Birt-Hogg-Dube Syndrome: This condition is caused by mutations in the BHD gene. People with Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome develop small, benign skin tumors. They also have elevated renal cell carcinoma risk.
Kidney Cancer Outlook
The outlook for a kidney cancer patient depends greatly on the size, type, and behavior of their cancer. The 5-year survival rate for kidney cancer patients in the United States is approximately 60%.
Kidney Cancer Prevention
To reduce your chances of developing kidney cancer, examine the following lifestyle amendments:
- Quit Smoking: If you’re a smoker, stop. If you’re not, don’t start. Quitting tobacco will immediately reduce the amount of toxins that your body is forced to process as a result of your decisions. Not only will it reduce kidney cancer risk, but it will also improve your overall health. Talk to a healthcare professional about medications, therapies, social groups, and other methods to help you quit smoking.
- Regular Exercise: Exercising regularly (at least 30 minutes per day) promotes healthy kidney function. Furthermore, exercise necessitates the consumption of water, which also promotes healthy kidney function.
- Eat Fruits and Vegetables: Consume an array of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. These foods will provide your body with vital nutrients that aren’t available in most snack foods. Not only will eating plenty of fruits and vegetables reduce kidney cancer risk, but it will also improve your overall health.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Talk to a healthcare professional about losing weight. Typically, weight-loss strategies include regular exercise, as well as a balanced diet that is low in fat and rich in fiber and other vital nutrients.
- Avoid Chemical Hazards: If you work around harmful chemicals, follow all safety regulations to ensure good health. Remember, under US law, your employer is required to inform you about all of the harmful toxins in your workplace.
- Manage Blood Pressure: Check your blood pressure regularly. If it is too high, talk to a healthcare professional about how you can lower your numbers.