What Causes Kidney Cancer?

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Although it is unclear what causes kidney cancer, or renal cell carcinoma, factors such as high blood pressure, inherited and acquired gene mutations, smoking, and obesity can increase an individual's risk for developing kidney cancer, states Mayo Clinic. How these factors lead to cancerous kidney cells is not known.

Researchers suggest that DNA changes can cause cancer by turning on certain genes that help cells grow, divide and stay alive or turning off tumor suppressor genes, according to the American Cancer Society. Certain DNA changes that are inherited can increase a person's risk for getting kidney cancer. People with hereditary papillary kidney cancer have inherited DNA changes in a particular gene that result in uncontrolled cell growth.

Two percent of all cancers develop in the kidneys, states Urology Care Foundation. Renal cell carcinoma is more common among males and is usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 50 and 70. No blood or urine tests are available that can directly detect the presence of cancerous kidney cells, adds Urology Care Foundation. Blood and urine tests can be used to determine what can be causing a patient's symptoms. Diagnosing kidney cancer involves biopsies to test tissue samples and ultrasound, MRI or CT scans to see tumors or abnormalities in the kidneys, according to Mayo Clinic.

Several risk factors make it more likely for the development ofrenal cell carcinoma, including smoking, high blood pressure, dialysis treatment, obesity and advanced age. In addition, people may inherit syndromes thatincrease their risk of kidney cancer, such as Hippel-Lindau disease and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome.