How Common Is Kidney Cancer?

How Common Is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney Cancer’s Prevalence

If you have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, you have many questions, including whether you are the only one living with this type of cancer and what the statistics are for risk factors, treatment success, and survival rates.

Here is some information about kidney cancer and its various statistics.


Last year, there were more than 50,000 diagnosed cases of kidney cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. This year, it is estimated there will be 64,990 new cases.

Kidney cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the world according to the World Cancer Research Fund International. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer with 80 to 90 percent of cases, the remaining 10 to 20 percent are renal pelvic cancer.

Two Types of Kidney Cancer

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) forms in the lining of the tubules (small tubes) of the kidney. As the most common type of kidney cancer, it affects mostly men between the ages of 50 and 70 according to the National Cancer Institute.

How well your treatments work with RCC depends on how much the cancer has spread. Your survival rate is highest if your tumor is removed in its early stages and hasn’t spread outside the kidney, but if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, your survival rate is much lower.

Renal pelvis cancer (RPC) forms in the kidney’s pelvis in the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. RPC is more common in people older than age 65 and its exact cause is unknown. It affects more men than women.

Chronic irritation of the kidney from harmful substances in the urine, such as from medicines, smoking, and exposures to certain chemicals may play a part. If you have previously had bladder cancer, you are also at risk for developing RPC.

Your quality of life and survival depends on the location of the tumor and how much the cancer has spread. If the cancer is only in the kidney or ureter, you could be cured with surgery but if the cancer has spread to other organs, it is generally not curable.

Risk Factors

Your lifetime risk for developing kidney cancer is 1.6 percent or 1 in 63, and your risk is higher if you are a man. If you have a family history of RCC, you have a 2.8 percent greater of developing kidney cancer during your lifetime and family history accounts for 4 percent of all RCC diagnoses according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Kidney cancer is the sixth most common cancer for men and the tenth most common for woman. It is rarely seen in people under age 45 and most of the diagnoses are in people around age 64.

Among Americans, American Indians, Hispanics and Latinos, Caucasians, and African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer over other racial groups.

If you are a smoker or former risker, your risk is higher compared to people who have never smoked. Some analgesics are also blamed for renal pelvis cancer.

Polycystic kidney disease (inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop in the kidneys) is also a risk factor. Overconsumption of alcohol, obesity, and hypertension are also to blame.

The World Cancer Fund International (WCRF) believes that 24 percent of the kidney cancer cases in the United States could be prevented if people were at healthy weights. These percentages are lower for the United Kingdom, Brazil, and China.

New Cases Every Year

The number of new kidney cancer diagnoses have been rising since the 1990s, although this seems to be leveling off in recent years. The new diagnoses are likely linked to the ability to better diagnose kidney cancer with CT scans and other sources of imaging testing.

The United States ranks number four in the world for the number of new diagnoses, and WCRF finds that 59 percent of cases are found in more developed countries. Those rates have risen for African Americans in recent years, compared to previous years where more Caucasians were being diagnosed.

The rates for renal pelvis cancer have been declining according to research out of the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute in the United States. Researchers have also found that diagnosing RCC in earlier stages increases survival for many people.


The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) estimates that there will be at least 14,400 deaths this year from kidney cancer. Due to more aggressive therapies and early diagnosis, death rates have actually been dropping by 1 percent annually since 2002.

The early diagnosis of kidney cancer, especially RCC, has contributed to lower rates of mortality in the U.S. and many European countries. Survival of patients in all stages of kidney cancer has also improved over time as well.

The 5-year survival rate with kidney cancer is currently 74 percent according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO.)

The 5-year survival rate, by definition, tells you what percentage of people will survive for at least five years after a cancer diagnosis. Survival rates are dependent on the type of cancer and the stage of diagnosis.

The survival rate for people whose cancer is centered to the kidney only is 93 percent but if the cancer has spread to other organs and/or lymph nodes, the rate goes down to 66 percent. The survival rate is only 12 percent once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, called metastatic cancer, or stage 4 cancer.

The statistics for survival rates are mere estimates and this information comes from yearly data of people living with kidney cancer in the U.S.  And because these rates are measured every five years, they do not always take into account better diagnosis measures and treatments available over the next five year period.

You should talk to your doctor about better understanding survival rate information and other kidney cancer statistics and what those numbers mean for you.


American Cancer Society (What Are the Key Statistics About Kidney Cancer?)
World Cancer Research Fund International (Kidney Cancer Statistics)
Cancer.Net (Kidney Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention)
National Institutes of Health (Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer)

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108 found this helpfulby Patricia Bratianu on February 18, 2015