Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content


Kidney Cancer and the Environment

Kidney cancer is a cancer that forms in tissues of the kidneys. Some types of kidney cancer include:

  • renal cell carcinoma; cancer that forms in the lining of very small tubes in the kidney that remove waste from blood;
  • renal pelvis carcinoma; cancer that forms in the center of the kidney where urine collects; and
  • Wilm's tumor; a type of kidney cancer that usually develops in children younger than age 5.

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in both men and women.

Research is needed to better understand the connection between the environment and kidney cancer. However, the kidney's main function of removing waste from our blood puts it at higher risk to the effects of harmful substances in our body. This includes environmental contaminants we come into contact with during our lifetimes. Studies have shown that some people exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE) or arsenic, through contaminated drinking water for example,
may be at an increased risk for kidney cancer.

Exposure and Risk

People with the following risk factors may be more likely than others to develop kidney cancer:

  • smoking,
  • exposure to certain hazardous substances, such as arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, some herbicides, benzene, and trichloroethylene (TCE),
  • obesity,
  • high blood pressure, and
  • family history of kidney cancer.
  Top of Page


You may be able to reduce your risk for kidney cancer by avoiding known risk factors for the disease. Cigarette smoking is responsible for a large number of cases, and stopping smoking may lower your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, choosing a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and getting treatment for high blood pressure may also lower your chance of getting this type of cancer. Finally, avoid workplace exposure to large amounts of harmful substances such as cadmium, asbestos, and organic solvents.

 Top of Page